Friday, June 14, 2013

The Art and Science of Urban Drainage

After days and inches of rain the warnings have popped up all over the Boston metropolitan area. Small stream flooding, major urban drainage problems, more rain to come. In our built environments drainage is an issue that can't be ignored. And this applies whether we live in rain-soaked regions like the northeast United States or in desert-dry localities like the southwest. Pavement leads to floods.

Why is this? In part we can attribute it to the physical properties of water. A sheet of water is an infinite series of interconnected molecules. Water not only "finds its way." It does so as part of a mass flow of molecules. Water collects in sheets on pavement and other non-absorptive surfaces. Once it overflows whatever bounds exist it moves with force.

The more paved surfaces the more force. The more water gathers the more it finds a way to move to another level. "Controlling" water is almost impossible. And the more water you want to control the greater the cost and the harder it is to accomplish. Are there any ways in the built environment to ameliorate the detrimental effects of water?

So-called green roofs are one attempt to "soften" the paved landscape. I've discussed in other posts how they're a not-always-reliable solution. The planning, infrastructure, and maintenance that is needed for green roofs is not an easy thing to accomplish. And the biology of green roofs is still poorly understood. How do we plan for the inevitable change in plant species that occurs on green roofs?

Maybe one way to ameliorate urban flooding is to promote more green spaces in our cities. This can be accomplished through something as simple as individual gardens. In our crowded old neighborhood in the heart of Boston, simple gardens show us the contrast between paved and unpaved when it comes to urban drainage. Asphalt, brick, and concrete surfaces collect water, which moves uncontrollably to places we may not want it. The varied contours and rich variety of a growing garden absorb, store, and ameliorate water. They change water into a resource instead of a nuisance.





50 comments:

  1. This post reminds me of the first point that you listed because it plays with the idea that bodies of water (in this post specifically, based on looking at that picture) do live in and interact with the city.

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  2. This post relates to #1 because it describes the fact that controlling water is almost impossible, demonstrating that bodies of water live within and penetrate the built environment of the city.

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  3. This post involves the first and second points. Elements of nature such as water and sunlight play multiple roles in an environment since they both live and interact. This creates patterns and harmony in nature that make it possible for the environment to exist.

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  4. I would relate this post to the first point listed because it is apparent that the water in the pictures finds its way to exist and interact within the city and since the water finds its way to live in the city it also brings about many positive aspects such as more plants and green areas to urban life

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  5. This post aligns with urban ecological frameworks #s 1 and 5. This post is about the currently unavoidable pavement runoffs in urban landscapes and possible solutions to the problem of flooding. The discussion of possible solutions to this problem (green roofs, individual gardens) shows how complex and quick to change urban environments really are.

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  6. This post relates to the first point. Bodies of water are particularly hard to control in an urban environment, yet urban flooding can be a severe problem after rain and snow storms. Adding green spaces to a city (areas with soil), can help to absorb this water.

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  7. This blog post is a good example of the level 5 way of thinking about urban ecology; "Cities are complex, diverse built environments that change over time. Just as we might consider the health of an ecosystem we can consider and plan for the health of an urban entity. Just as natural systems may be threatened by phenomena such as climate change and natural disasters, cites are affected by these phenomena. What are the complex components that make a city? How can we come to understand them? How can we make them better serve the needs of people who live in them? How can we make them more resilient to change?" The problem of water run off in urban environments, with an abundance of pavement adding to the problem, can be remedied by increasing the amount of green spaces in the urban space. The natural phenomena of rain occurs without control of the citizens, and can lead to dangerous and chaotic consequences if not handled carefully. By living in urban environments, and seeing how the climate behaves and changes our community, people can expand their knowledge and explore possible ways to improve their own ecological neighborhoods.

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  8. I never really thought about how pavement works as a transporter of water to unwanted areas. Something that would likely interest you is a pavement that actually collects the water and from what I understand the water soaks through the pavement and is absorbed into the ground.

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  9. This post relates to framework #1. Water lives within the city of Boston and is difficult to control. We have more pavement than green which you discussed. As it looks from the pictures it sits in puddle on the pavement and goes in places where it is not wanted.

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  10. This post makes a very interesting point about the affects of urbanization on the urban ecology of the soils, bodies of water, plants, etc. within the built environment of the city (framework 1). The pavement and hard impermeable surfaces associated with an urban environment are definitely changing the way that more natural systems are able to grow/operate within the confines of a city.

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  11. This post is most closely related to point number one. There are different animals, plants, and organisms spread out around the city. However, there really isn't enough of a balance between the living and non-living parts of the city. This drainage problem could be easily solved if there was less brick, concrete, and asphalt, and more individual greens/gardens.

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  12. The phenomena of urban drainage is something that we talked a bit about in lecture today in relation to how cities affect patterns within our environment within and outside of their borders. The excess water that collects as a result of our changing the landscape with miles and miles of pavement is an obvious affect of the building of urban environments. Just as we, as humans, have thought of complex ways to build cities into the monstrosities they are, we now have to think of new ways to almost build-down in order to ameliorate the problems that we have caused in developing urban environments.

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  13. This article connects to the first way of looking at urban ecology. Water is one of the most basic and essential molecules for life so providing more green spaces in cities (as you mentioned above) is a good way to deal with this issue. So many people in the world are not getting enough water and it is a shame that this could not be used to help others in different areas of the world.

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  14. I think that this post reminds us of sustainability. Every form of ecology requires sustainability. By creating more gardens and green spaces in the city we can build our biotic forms of ecology.

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  15. This post relates to framework number 1 which has to do with the ecology of soils, bodies of water, plants, animals, and other organisms that live within and penetrate the built environment of the city. As is shown in the photos, we find room for things like plants and animals even in the largest of urban environments.

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  16. This article highlights what you said in our lab post regarding the complexity of cities and the diversity of environments that change over time due to a plethora of different circumstances and environmental alterations. Because of water run-off in urban environments, we need to increase the amount of green space (or self-made gardens)
    in order to 'soften' the landscape.

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  17. This post relates to #1 because it talks about the relationship between water and the city. In each city the water exists throughout creating new plants and helping nature continue to grow, ultimately leading to a greener city!

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  18. This post really relates to the first point about the ecology of soil and bodies of water. Boston is built right on top of water and is surrounded by tons of water and the system that drain the water and control it help to keep Boston innovative and green although there is still much to be done.

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  19. Isabel Vera

    The problem with urban drainage problems in cities highlights the importance of the second approach to urban ecology. The pavement that is essential and ubiquitous in the city creates a runoff problem that city dwellers must deal with. The reference to “green roofs” sheds light on the importance of the human ecologies of technology and construction that are unique to cities and impact them greatly.

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  20. This post relates to ecological framework #1 because it shows how water in the environment can penetrate and directly affect the city. Water can have both positive and negative outcomes depending on how its regulated and controlled. As a city we should work to put water to use positively by having more gardens and greens instead of it turning to harmful waste.

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  21. This post corresponds to ecological framework number one because it addresses how hard it is to control bodies of water and the relationship cities have with water. Water has the ability to destroy cities (flooding) and the ability to also improve cities by helping nature to grow and develop.

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  22. Humans undoubtedly have a huge impact on the environment and therefore have a responsibility to ensure its stability. In your first point, you state that natural forces "penetrate the walls of a city" and interact with us daily. This could not be more true, and we must contain these forces so that they do not put us in danger.

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  23. The urbanization and development of cities has diminished the amount of room there is for ecology. This may pose a harmful effect on humans in the future that they are blinded to by all the developments of society.

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  24. This article relates with the fourth point which deals with the complexity of ecological systems. Oklahoma is a state where people have to adapt to their environment. It is a shame that the city was unable to put in the necessary support systems in place. This is a good example of when nature trumps our city's ecology.

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  25. This post relates to point 1 because in the city it is not the easiest to control water. The city is covered by roads and cement side walks with minimal space for water to drain. This creates flooding as seen in the pictures in this post.

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  26. This article is easily related to point 4 because it is a good example of how people have to adapt to their ecological environment and its unique attributes. For example, people in rain soaked regions need to deal with the water runoff, while people in the desert are more focused on dealing with the lack of water in their area.

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  27. I would relate this article to the first point. The Article uses water as an example of nature interacting with our environment. Cities need to be prepared for the inevitable challenges that nature will throw their way. Flooding is only one of many natural phenomena that can cause serious damage to a city.

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  28. The post relates to points #1 and #5 the most. The first point relates because the post discusses water, plants, and soil and how each relates to the environment. The fifth point relates because the problem of water drainage is changing the environment, and must be dealt with in a new way. This shows a city that must change over time.

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  29. This post relates to framework 2 because it talks about how urban places can impact an environment and in the post you mention that by slowing down the building urban areas and leaving some green space we can positively impact the environment.

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  30. This relates to #1 because it demonstrates how bodies of water get trapped in the cities infrastructure. It also relates to #2 because it talks about how the environment is affected by the urbanization.

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  31. This post relates to your first point which highlights the ecology of other living organisms in the built environment of cities. Paved roads and sidewalks covers this ecology using concrete and other materials. An efficient system to drain the water and and keep Boston a green city will help with other environmental resources in the city.

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  32. This post relates to frameworks #1 and #2 because it talks about the way a city, such a Boston, adjusts to ecological patterns such as heavy rainfall. There are many things a city can do to make phenomena such as this manageable and as little destructive as possible.

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  33. I found this post interesting because I had no idea why flooding occurred in urban environments. I also found it interesting that plants and greenery could provide a solution to the flooding problem. Pretty ironic.

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  34. This article relates to the first post about how different plants, animals, and bodies of water interact with the city. Lots of rain is never fun in Boston. Puddles collect on sidewalks and cars splash you as they drive by, rain is just annoying in the city. Although water can be quite the nuisance, it can also really help out in various parts of the city. Even within Boston there are numerous greeneries and gardens that depend on rainfall to survive.

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  35. This post addresses framework #1 because it discusses how bodies of water penetrate the urban environment and how urban factors contributed by humans, such as pavement, cause floods. The urban environment and ecology are constantly affecting each other.

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  36. This article relates to the first post because it describes the use of rain in the city to water gardens is a positive way that uses the water resource and provides for the city

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  37. This reminds me of the point (framework 1) where you mention that ecology, bodies of water, interact with the urban environment. No matter how unnatural a city might seem, nature will always find a way to interact with it.

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  38. In many urban environments it is common to find more pavement than green areas. This post can relate the closest to number one because it shows the difficulty in trying to control the water that we are surrounded by here in Boston.

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  39. This article connects to our discussion of storm runoffs and their relation to effects on ecological and climatic patterns within and beyond urban borders. During a storm runoff, the water particles never actually come in contact with the ground due to flooding, or they go directly into the ocean. This, specifically, is a climatic pattern recognizable in Boston.

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  40. This post reminds me of point number one and how the environment penetrates our Urban ecology

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  41. This article is a clear example of studying urban ecology through soil, water, plants, animals and other organisms that live within the urban environment.

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  42. I would say this post reminds me of the first point you made. The environment is always interacting with our cities - especially in this example of flooding. I know that in Phoenix we don't get much rain because its a dry environment, so when it does happen to rain (and last year it rained a lot, so much that the streets flooded and my brother could kayak in them) that the city isn't prepared for so much rain. There's so much pavement that it just collects and collects and in a dramatic way of saying it, turns some Phoenicians lives upside down.

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  43. urban drainage is a huge problem. I remember reading an article a couple years ago about how some people were using beats instead of all the salts and chemicals to help melt the ice. I dont know how well it worked, it just shows how desperate we are for a more natural way to cure this problem. in my opinion, we should go back to dirt roads.

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  44. I never thought about how water is collected more in paved areas than that with soil or a green surface. This resonates with the first framework because the city is made up of many attributes that help it function. However, it would be wonderful if more gardens were being built in the city because this would then be a further example of how ecological environments continue to function.

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  45. I think that this post aligns most with the first and second levels of ecology. The importance of the flow of water is affected by the urbanization of many locations. This article discusses the affect that pavement has on the flow of water. Water in an urban setting can be seen as a way of keeping the total change from natural setting to city-life. Perhaps the Charles River settled in the heart of Boston serves as a symbolic reminder of nature being preserved in the city setting. The article explains that the production and additions of pavement throughout the city affect the flow of water which plays a major in the urban ecology transformation.

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  46. This relates to number one because drainage deals with the waters penetrating the places we live in. This causes problems like leaks in homes and poor road conditions.

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  47. This is an excellent example of promoting urban sustainability! Not only urban gardens contribute to the aesthetics of an ecology, depending on what is planted there they can also contribute to improving food supply and eradicating food deserts throughout cities. For example, Boston has a number of areas that don't see a healthy supply of fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. Implementing these sustainable urban gardens can potentially help people have healthier diets as well has help the environment produce better air quality and a more attractive ecology.

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  48. So informative! We should all take note of the concept of introducing green spaces wherever we can. Then, we would definitely embrace everything that comes with water as well. -from Tess Velasquez, MET IS 380 Group 1 Student.

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  49. I really liked the comment about trying to "control" water, and the cost associated with it. I live about 35 miles NE of the California Aqueduct. This is the aqueduct that carries water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir near Yosemite all the way to LA. The aqueduct stretches 701 miles. Staggering when you think of the engineering and the cost to build

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  50. When it comes to learning, (which I visualize as something with a flow), is the educative institution the surface and the students the water; or vice versa? How are we to design the surface so that the water/ learning process does not end up where we don't want to?
    There is a natural aspect to learning and one should sometimes let the flow take you where it wants to go!

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