Drylands Resilience Initiative and Hazel

[Design Science is] the effective application of the principles of science to the conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth’s finite resources meet the needs of all humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet.” -R. Buckminster Fuller

The Drylands Resilience initiative has produced HAZEL, a powerful digital modeling tool that supports coordinated, scenario-based whole systems thinking and decision-making for water-smart urban design. HAZEL, when completed, will allow stakeholders to evaluate infrastructure, building projects, and their supporting ecosystems using precise data on hydrologic functions. It will allow in-depth, data-based systemic evaluation of urban design choices that couple human and natural systems, measuring hydrologic interactions and feedbacks between these systems at various scales and time horizons. This technology will allow the optimization of the hydrologic function of the built environment, encouraging small-scale distributed water infrastructure that respects cultural and biophysical attributes of communities and watersheds, potentially uncoupling the water-energy nexus.

Underneath HAZEL is an idea of competence, simplicity, people self-managing in smaller social units, organizing around water systems, and backing away from a dependence on centralized technology, capital, and authority, which are separating us from being responsible or understanding the systems that support our lives. Out of that comes delight in making spaces that we feel we belong in. HAZEL is a tool for particularizing space.” Hadley Arnold, Co-Founder of the Drylands Resilience Initiative

Freshwater resources are in crisis globally. Climate change is projected to reduce renewable water resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions, exacerbating competition for water among agriculture, ecosystems, settlements, and industry, undermining water, energy, and food security for at least 1.5 billion people living in water-stressed environments worldwide. The need to adapt Holocene infrastructure and building systems to an Anthropocene hydrologic regime is recognized, urgent, and just at its beginning. Arid urban centers face unprecedented challenges in securing future water supplies. Where exactly is public investment best targeted for distributed, alternative water systems integrated into an arid city’s fabric? What are the projected water, energy, carbon, ecosystem services, and economic costs and benefits? How can water-smart design optimize the hydrologic performance of the city’s surface? Drylands Resilience Initiative [DRI] is a collaborative, multi-year initiative to create a water-smart future for Los Angeles. The Arid Lands Institute [ALI] working with DRI’s research partners, has developed Hazel, a proof-of-concept digital tool that will help: maximize low-carbon localized water supply; shape water-smart urban planning and policy; identify key sites for public and private investment; build a water-conversant citizenry; transform design education; and utilize design visioning for socially and culturally responsive choices. Hazel operates as a high-level computational engine, the first of its kind integrating overland surface flow, groundwater flow, and the design of the built environment into a dissemination tool. Hazel integrates water supply and quality considerations, correlating embodied energy, carbon emissions, ecosystem services, and economic implications to evaluate design decisions, both quantitatively and visually, with a systemic approach.

For more information, please visit the Arid Lands Institute website: http://aridlands.org