Over the last few years, my colleagues and I have constructed a wide variety of water harvesting systems in the Navajo Nations. The majority of these have been installed for families living in remote locations where they have no piped water and no line power.
For power, we have been installing stand-along solar systems. For water, we’ve been constructing carport-type structures that have gutters attached to large water storage tanks. It was assumed that the recipients could use the physical structure for either equipment or animal storage.
However, as we have worked on the reservation, it has occurred to us that the roof of the carports could be used for solar panels and that the underneath part could be used for shade; the desert portions of the reservation are uncomfortably hot and sunny during the summer.
The shade and solar-panel idea has already been exploited by southwestern entrepreneurs. All that is left is to add gutters and water storage into their systems. Sharing the shady area under the solar panels would be a water storage tank and perhaps either benches or outdoor recreation equipment. Of course, the structure could still be used as a carport or barn.
The Bureau of Reclamation has designed and the Aneth Chapter (Navajo Nation) has almost completed the installation of a combined shade, water harvesting, and solar structure. All that remains is to hook up the water-harvesting roof to the water storage tank, and the solar panels to the grid.