Stormwater Management

The Stormwater Management section of DTM works to keep pollutants out of Tucson's stormwater drainage system.

  Water Harvesting Guidance | Water Harvesting Method | Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines | Green Stormwater Infrastructure 

Stormwater Quality Ordinance | Tucson Clean and Beautiful

Water Harvesting Guidance Manual  

Water Harvesting is the practice of capturing and collecting runoff from storms and using the "harvested" stormwater to provide supplemental water for landscape plants. Water harvesting has numerous benefits. Water harvesting reduces the amount of stormwater flowing in streets or onto adjacent properties, increases the quantity and quality of the water supply for landscape plants, and helps keep potential stormwater pollutants out of our streets, watercourses and ultimately, the groundwater. Water harvesting appropriately designed and monitored, can reduce the amount of potable water used for irrigation, saving a development money and reducing the demand on the City's potable water delivery system.

One simple and cost effective way to help reduce potable water consumption is to reduce irrigation water use for landscaped areas. An average water use breakdown for properties in Tucson indicates approximately 60% internal use and 40% is external use. Presently, the only water use reduction program or method enforced by the City that targets landscaping water use is the Xeriscape requirements in the Land Use Code. The Land Use Code provides additional means to reduce external water use by requiring stormwater harvesting to supplement irrigation systems for commercial developments.

Technical experts acknowledge that widespread, individual efforts to harvest stormwater could affect rates of stormwater runoff. While not practical as a regulatory approach for managing stormwater on a City-wide basis, water harvesting should be encouraged for use by individuals on private property. If enough people practice water harvesting in City neighborhoods, it is possible that some urban flooding problems could be reduced.

The Water Harvesting Guidance Manual was developed in accordance with Mayor and Council direction. On October 18, 2005, the Mayor and Council (M&C) passed an Ordinance supporting the Water Harvesting Guidance Manual for use by developers in planning a strategy to implement water harvesting for new developments, including City projects.

The manual is primarily directed toward commercial developments, but the concept designs and configurations are easily adapted for residential lot use. Adobe Acrobat Reader (downloadable free online) is needed to view the document. If you have any questions, please call the City of Tucson Stormwater Management at (520) 791-4251.

waterharvest.jpg(PDF, 2MB)   Water Harvesting Guidance Manual(PDF, 2MB)

Wilson Water Harvesting Feature

Good example of water harvesting used for traffic calming, along the Wilson watercourse. 

Water Harvesting Method

Increasingly Tucson citizens are looking for ways to beautify their neighborhood through tree planting within the Right of Way along city streets. Water harvesting can be utilized to reduce the use of our potable water by utilizing runoff from rain water. There is an abundance of water that flows down the gutter whenever it rains in Tucson. The attached curb cut detail offers an opportunity for citizens to capture some of that runoff and utilize it to water trees and shrubs.

Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines

The following is a draft of the Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines, currently under consideration for use by City maintenance crews as well as other municipalities.

Watercourse Maintenance Guidelines(PDF, 27MB)

Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI)

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Low Impact Development Standard Details and Site Guidelines (PDF, 9MB)

Stormwater Quality Ordinance

only rain logo

The Mayor and Council, on October 18, 2005, passed Stormwater Quality Ordinance, Tucson Code Chapter 26, Article II(PDF, 908KB). The goal of this ordinance is to protect stormwater quality entering the City’s stormwater drainage system.

Under the Stormwater Quality Ordinance, the City can inspect businesses, facilities, and construction sites to ensure that pollutants such as oil, grease, sediment and trash do not get picked up by stormwater runoff and transported to our fragile washes. Only Rain in the Drain.

Keeping Stormwater Clean and Protecting our Desert is a Job for All of Us!

Flash Flood Danger 

No Warning - No Time To Escape!
Video shows everything normal for 20 seconds, then Full flood in only 40 seconds!

Taken at the Silvercroft Wash at Grant Road, August 27, 2003 around 2:40 PM

The Tucson Fire Department's videographer, J.W. Davis, put together the following video of swift water rescues throughout the City of Tucson:

When in doubt, find another route

The Stormwater Management Program responds to City of Tucson Citizen's concerns about:

  • Spills that impact or threaten stormdrains or washes
  • Dry weather/nonstorm flow in stormdrains or washes
  • Construction site runoff
  • Runoff from industrial sites
  • Dumping of wash water to stormdrains or washes
  • Runoff from car washing or detailing operations

Please describe your concern thoroughly in an email to Stormwater staff at or by phone at (520) 791-4251. Be sure to include the location, time, and type of incident. If this is an emergency please call 911.

Tucson Clean & Beautiful

Tucson Clean & Beautiful, a nonprofit organization, conducts environmental volunteer programs in waste reduction and recycling, land stewardship, urban forestry, and beautification. Trees for Tucson is a program of Tucson Clean & Beautiful.

Tucson Clean & Beautiful coordinates the Adopt-a-Park & Public Areas volunteer program which includes Adopt-a-Street and Adopt-a-Wash projects in cooperation with the Transportation Department (Streets & Traffic Maintenance Division). Many locations within the City of Tucson are available for community group adoption. Call (520) 791-3109 or email for more information.