Earthworks- curb cuts

Site location: Tucson, AZ

Sidewalk strip water harvesting

  • Goals: To harvest street runoff, prevent stormwater pollution, and irrigate plants.
  • Site description: Wide sidewalk strip. Street graded towards sidewalks. Hot, arid climate, typical monsoon rains in the summer. One thing that makes the curb cuts really work here in Tucson is that most streets don’t have storm drains so the streets flood during heavy rains. If you had a storm drain at every corner there likely wouldn’t be enough accumulation of runoff to be worth it.– Tucson resident.
  • Cost: Saw rental: $70 Blade: $100 new (for future cutting projects), or $50 rented from store. Total: $170
  • Designed by: home owner

System Description:

full view beforeRunoff from this large street slopes to the sidewalks. Vegetation in the large sidewalk strips can provide shade, wildlife habitat, and beauty.



Basin3 beforeThree different basins were dug out, several inches below the level of the street. The basins were sloped away from the street.

Prior to cutting the curb was marked with a sharpie using  curb cut guidelines from the City of Tucson.


Curb Cuts10

A concrete saw was rented to make the cuts. A garden hose adds water to keep the blade and cement wet for the cuts.



Curb Cuts11A wrecking bar knocks out sections of concrete after being cut. (This section is larger to create a bike driveway.)











Planted Basin2


Newly planted basin Runoff water will pool into the basin and slowly sink into the ground after the rain. In the first image the mulch has not been added yet nor planted. The basin in the second image has just been planted. The young plants will fill out over time.




  • Specifications and Notes: Unexpected things… The hand-held concrete saw cannot make very shallow angled cuts since the body of the saw interferes with the curb. Because some of the cuts are rough there may be a need to go back over the rough edges with an abrasive wheel on a grinder to buff them.
  • Maintenance and trouble shooting: Newly planted basins will need supplemental irrigation until they are established. Mulch may need occasional replacement.