How to increase the climate resilience of arid places using rock detention structures as green infrastructure

This study of the use of rock detention structure to increase the climate resilience of arid places was done by researchers at:

  • Western Geographic Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Tucson, AZ
  • School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
  • Phoenix Area Office Bureau of Reclamation, Glendale, AZ
  • Denver Federal Center, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver, CO
  • Arizona Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Tucson, AZ

ABSTRACT: The potential of ecological restoration and green infrastructure has been long suggested in the literature as adaptation strategies for a changing climate, with an emphasis on revegetation and, more recently, carbon sequestration and stormwater management.

Tree planting and “natural” stormwater detention structures such as bioswales, stormwater detention basins, and sediment traps are popular approaches. However, the experimental verification of performance for these investments is scarce and does not address rock detention structures specifically.

This 3-year study investigates the infiltration, peak flow mitigation, and microclimate performance of a natural wash stormwater retention installation using one-rock dams in an urban park in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Field data collected during the study do not depict change in the hydrogeomorphology.

However, hydrologic modeling, using data collected from the field, portrays decreases in peak flows and increases in infiltration at the treated sites.

Additionally, we observe a lengthening of microclimate cooling effects following rainfall events, as compared with the untreated sites. In this urban arid land setting, the prospect that rock detention structures themselves could reduce warming or heat effects is promising.

Photo of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on Arizona-Utah border by Manfred Guttenberger from Pixabay.

See full study.

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