Cities Go Water Smart
In the United States, our infrastructure isn’t designed to
handle the increased floods and droughts that come with global warming.
Consider Florida, where coastal
cities are spending billions of dollars on pumps and desalination plants to
deal with flooding, or Denver, Colorado, which had
to restrict residential lawn watering to two days a week throughout the
spring due to drought.
Clearly, we need to be smarter about our precious water
supply in the coming years. Many cities are already getting a jump start on
smart water solutions and their work provides models for other places dealing
with water challenges.
“Bioswales,” also known as rain gardens, absorb and filter
runoff from nearby pavement. Not only do they keep polluted rainwater from
reaching our rivers and lakes, they beautify our cities and prevent flooding. Check out this video of a bioswale
installed along a new bike trail in Indianapolis.
Solar Water Heaters
Rather than using solar panels to create electricity, solar water
heaters use them to… you guessed it, heat water. About 30 million homes in
China use solar water heaters and many municipalities in the US, like Palo
Alto, CA, Austin, TX, and Tallahassee, FL offer rebates to their residents if
they install them.
Porous (or Permeable)
Another way to ensure rainwater is filtered before it
reaches our waterways is by letting it hit the ground rather than run along the
top of pavement. Porous pavement like that pictured above has tiny gaps that
allow the water to flow through.
About a third of the clean drinking water in the US is used
to water lawns. One way to halt this waste is to encourage the use of cisterns
and rain barrels which collect rainwater for things like gardening and flushing
toilets. The town of Northfield, MN rebates its residents 50% of the cost of
installing such systems. Many other towns in the US have similar programs, and
rain barrels are readily available at most home improvement stores.
Nothing manages water better than nature. Ensuring that our
waterways are buffered from development by conserving the vegetation around it
keeps them clean, provides vital habitat for plants and animals, and guards
against flooding. In just one project of its kind, EarthShare member Trust for
Public Land helped protect nearly 600 acres of land near the LaPlatte River,
which feeds into Lake Champlain. Because of this, the safety of the drinking
water supply for 68,000 people is ensured.
Green roofs have multiple benefits: they reduce the heat
island effect in cities, filter air pollution, improve building efficiency, and much
more. They also reduce the volume of storm water flowing into sewer
systems. Chicago leads the country in green roofs installed.
Learn more about the
many water-related issues we face as a society — and the proposed solutions:
End of Cheap Water?, American Rivers
is Green Infrastructure?, American Rivers