Many studies have identified the potential of rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems to simultaneously augment potable water supply and reduce delivery of uncontrolled stormwater flows to downstream drainage networks. Potentially, such systems could also play a role in the controlled delivery of water to urban streams in ways which mimic baseflows. The performance of RWH systems to achieve these three objectives could be enhanced using Real-Time Control (RTC) technology to receive rainfall forecasts and initiate pre-storm release in real time, although few studies have explored such potential. We used continuous simulation to model the ability of a range of allotment-scale RWH systems to simultaneously deliver: (i) water supply; (ii) stormwater retention; and (iii) baseflow restoration. We compared the performance of RWH systems with RTC technology to conventional RWH systems and also systems designed with a passive baseflow release, rather than the active (RTC) configuration. We found that RWH systems employing RTC technology were generally superior in simultaneously achieving water supply, stormwater retention and baseflow restoration benefits compared with the other types of system tested. The active operation provided by RTC allows the system to perform optimally across a wider range of climatic conditions, but needs to be carefully designed. We conclude that the active release mechanism employing RTC technology exhibits great promise; its ability to provide centralised control and failure detection also opens the possibility of delivering a more reliable rainwater harvesting system, which can be readily adapted to varying climate over both the short and long term.
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