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Cities are Finally Treating Water as a Resource, not a Nuisance

October 14, 2015 |
 Buffalo Bayou traversing through Sesquicentennial Park in Downtown Houston. Photo by Brian Reading

Buffalo Bayou traversing through Sesquicentennial Park in Downtown Houston. Photo by Brian Reading

Erica Gies writes about the surprising ways that urban areas are dealing with water woes across the world. 
“Memorial Day barbecues and parades were thwarted this year in Houston when a massive storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain in two days, creating a Waterworld of flooded freeways, cars, houses and businesses, leaving several people dead and hundreds in need of rescue.
But it was a predictable disaster. That’s because, thanks to a pro-development bent, the magnitude of stormwater runoff has increased dramatically as Houston has sprawled across 600 or so square miles of mud plain veined with rivers, sealing under asphalt the floodplains and adjoining prairies that once absorbed seasonal torrential rains and planting development in harm’s way. Land subsidence from groundwater pumping and oil and gas development and, now, sea level rise and more frequent and severe storms are applying additional pressure from Galveston Bay, which sits just east of the city of 2.2 million.

The good news? Houston had already begun shifting gears, hoping to reduce the severity of future floods by reclaiming 183 miles of natural waterways that snake through the city and 4,000 acres of adjacent green space from industrial areas through a project known as the Bayou Greenways. The goal is to absorb rain where it falls, reducing the volume rushing into stormwater detention facilities, and to encourage biking and walking as “active transit” in the parks that make up the Bayou Greenways.

With these measures, Houston is beginning to embrace a worldwide trend in urban retrofitting — layering new infrastructure on top of old to help cities weather climate change. In many places, that includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions: shifting to cleaner energy, making buildings more efficient and improving public transit. For cities facing increased threats from floods and droughts, it also means adapting to a changing world by finding new ways to manage water.”

Read on at: Corporate Knights

Originally published on Ensia.

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