Water conservation

Nate Allen, Biosphere 2

Two 2,500-gallon fiberglass cisterns capture rainwater in times of plenty and store it for use later on.

NMPIRG Citizen Update

The next project is to retrofit one of the casitas with solar panels to see just how much of the building’s heating and cooling needs can be supplied using this abundant and renewable energy source.

An array of eight solar panels like this can provide up to 1.3 kW of power.

Biosphere 2’s sustainability coordinator, Nate Allen, dreams of using the casitas—on-site housing—to demonstrate and illustrate a variety of water and solar systems that thousands of visitors will see as they come and go from the Biosphere 2 tour.

The academic village at Biosphere 2 was originally built to house students attending Columbia’s Earth Semester. Today, the buildings serve as on-site housing for conferences and the B2 Institute. The casitas, built in the Southwest style to high energy standards, typically have four double bedrooms, a common kitchen, and a living room.

Why Biosphere 2?

This area of the Sonora desert only receives about 15 inches of rain each year, much of it in sudden downbursts of an inch or more during the summer monsoon season in July and August. A rainwater harvesting system stores some of this rainfall—the water that would normally run off the roof—for use later to flush toilets or supply water to the desert landscaping (xeriscape). University of Arizona students taking a rainwater harvesting class—taught by Dr. Jim Riley and funded through a special tax fund (TRIF) that facilitates innovative water education efforts around the state—designed Biosphere 2’s current system.