GREEN CITY, CLEAN WATERS: Philadelphia is in Year #7 of a 25-year program to create a citywide mosaic of green infrastructure and restore the water balance
Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia’s favorite son, described his city’s stormwater problem well: By “covering a ground plot with buildings and pavements, which carry off most of the rain and prevent its soaking into the Earth and renewing and purifying the Springs … the water of wells must gradually grow worse, and in time be unfit for use as I find has happened in all old cities.”
FLASHBACK TO 2006: “The Design with Nature Game Show gets workshop participants thinking about real things, on the ground, so that they can begin to see how use of the Water Balance Model will help them,” explained Richard Boase
The Design with Nature Game Show was one of the features of the training workshop hosted by UBC-Okanagan University.“It is fascinating to see how excited and ‘into it’ people get after a few minutes. The irony is that the grand prize is one hour of personal tutoring by me by phone. Just imagine what they would be like if there was a real prize! It just goes to show how important it is to make a computer modeling workshop fun. If people have fun, they will get more out of the day and perhaps some of the philosophical stuff will actually stick,” stated Richard Boase.
The Nature of Cities: “Instead of aiming at control, we must embrace uncertainty and redefine principles of design to acknowledge the complexity of hybrid ecosystems,” stated Marina Alberti, University of Washington
“I suggest that if we are to understand ecosystems in which humans are the key players, we need a paradigm shift in the way we study these ecosystems,” wrote Marina Alberti. “As ecosystems are increasingly dominated by human action, they move toward a new set of feedback mechanisms. Their state is unstable. We can drive them to collapse or we can consciously steer them toward outcomes we desire.”
“Instead of expanding our infrastructure, we put together a plan to price, value, reuse, recycle, infiltrate, transpire or otherwise manage, every drop of rainwater we could. We started to invent the millions of ways to reduce the amount of rainwater that arrived at our sewer inlets. The goal was to consider rainwater as a commodity and a resource—if it enters a sewer drain it becomes a costly waste product,” explained Howard Neukrug. “There is no single formula for success—and we still don’t know whether ultimately we will succeed.”
Reflections on Balancing Green & Grey: “The smart thing is to work with nature and learn as much as we can from it,” observed Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute
“The relationship between humans and the rest of nature is not always easy. We have entered the Anthropocene – an era in which our species has emerged as a major force of nature,” stated Torgny Holgren. “This is particularly visible in relation to water, where human interventions occur throughout the hydrological cycle: Change in land use alters evaporation which in turn can change atmospheric movements of moisture and cause droughts or floods in distant river basins.”
The county is currently developing a plan to meet 20 percent of L.A.’s current demand. “We get a lot of our water from outside of Los Angeles, from northern California, Colorado, and it is getting more and more expensive,” said Dr. J.R. DeShazo. “It’s getting less reliable, and the water quality from some of those external supplies is getting worse.” Advocates hope to build support for green infrastructure designed to capture and store a largely untapped resource that could help quench the county’s constant demand for water – and provide multiple benefits for L.A.’s communities.
FLASHBACK TO 2007: “Practitioners in local government are not necessarily aware when they are being innovative and are not often aware of innovation in other municipalities,” stated John Finnie, CAVI Chair, at the launch event in the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Series on Vancouver Island
“The CAVI vision for Vancouver Island is catching on. There is increasing interest,” stated John Finnie. “We believe a key to the success of CAVI is that we are talking to people, not preaching at them. Our approach is to inform and educate. We do this by creating situations for people to have conversations. The CAVI role is to plant seeds and start the conversations that will lead to action. We are encouraging people to move from conversations to dialogue, and to learn from the experience of each other.”
“Surrey has established a new sustainability benchmark in Canada with a state of the art facility that converts organic waste into renewable energy,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “The Biofuel Facility will be instrumental in reducing community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 49,000 tonnes per year, which is the equivalent of taking over 10,000 cars off the road annually.”
Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: “Alignment with the BC Framework would enable and support the transition of drainage practice from ‘voodoo hydrology’ to a water balance approach,” says Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability
“Among land and drainage practitioners, how water gets to a stream and how long it takes is not well understood. Unintended consequences of this failure to ‘get it right’ include degraded urban streams, more flooding, more stream erosion, less streamflow when needed most, and an unfunded infrastructure liability,” states Kim Stephens. “In 2006, American engineer and textbook author Andy Reese coined the term voodoo hydrology to both describe drainage practice and draw attention to the need for changing the way drainage engineers practice their trade.”
FLASHBACK TO 2007: “The ingredients for success include passion and a willingness to take a vision and make it happen,” stated Rob Lawrance, City of Nanaimo Environmental Planner, at the launch event in the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Series on Vancouver Island
In 2007, Rob Lawrance set the context and introduced the unifying themes for the three City of Nanaimo presentations. In setting the context, he also elaborated on what is involved in finding the right ‘balance’ to make things happen on the ground. “It’s all about people, and most of all, it’s about involving the right people at the start,” stated Rob Lawrance. He identified four tools that are enabling City staff to drive green infrastructure innovation in Nanaimo.