Bioswales / Stormwater Manage in Arid Climates

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums SUSTAINABILITY & DESIGN Bioswales / Stormwater Manage in Arid Climates

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    I am looking for any information on stormwater management (specifically bioswales and detention basins) for arid regions. My office is working on a project in Southern California that receives less than 12 inches of rain per year, mostly from November – March. I have seen some studies stating that the plants would require too much irrigation in the dry season to compensate for the increase in infiltrated water, but I have also been told of projects that have worked successfully. If anyone could point me to information or precedents, I’d greatly appreciate it. THANKS!

    Adam Morman

    Check out . They’ve had success in the UAE

    here’s a detail of a bio-swale using the EPIC Chamber for Biofiltration — RESI Epic Chamber detail

    Peter Jensen

    John –

    Our office does consulting work on native landcape design in Southern California.

    Please contact me if you would like to review further.

    Find my informatin at

    Roland Beinert

    I think a good strategy might be to hike around natural areas some weekend. Look for natural drainage areas, especially small streams that will likely dry up later in the summer, and take notes on the plants you see. For example, here in the Boise foothills, drainage areas will usually have some sort of wild rose and syringa growing in them or near them. Even if the native plants you find growing in the drainage areas aren’t commercially available or wouldn’t fit in with other more ornamental plants, they might give you clues about what commercially available plants might do well in wet/dry conditions.
    If you can, try planting trees on the south side of the swales, since this will shade the swales and reduce evaporation. A good mulch in the swale would help reduce evaporation, too.

    Larry Lesser

    I’ll second Roland’s comments. There are several native species found in the Bay area that also grow naturally (and unnaturally) in southern CA – look at what’s growing in your local natural swales and try using some of them. Also, aside from stormwater filtration, does your proposed bioswale have any other purpose, visual or functional?

    Finally, you might want to talk to Rana Creek ( – I think they might have worked with your firm before, and they certainly know their stuff where sustainable water management issues are concerned.

    Bob Luther

    we have been asked by cities to incorporate bioswales into the landscape of parking lots and shopping centers, we normally use a fescue mix that is slow growing and drougnt tolerant (because it is normally in a high visiblity area along the street) we place the swale area on its own irrigation valve and then the area can be left without water for the summer or if it is gettting a little “cooked” the maintenace people can apply a light amount of water. On some of the newer projects we have been using ET irrigation controllers and placing the bioswale as a high drought tolerant zone setting and letting the ET dictate the water application, we also get a little overspray and some runnoff from the surrounding landscape, not very much but all water runs down hill and gathers in the swale, so it is ether used by the plants or goes back into the ground.

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