Many cities are now pushing reinvestments in the urban core, prompting people to live, eat, and play in walkable city centers.
Unlike in the past, cities today have challenges associated with adequately housing greater numbers of people while balancing scarce and threatened natural resources. In particular, cities must meet demands around public transit, water, infrastructure improvements, and even open, community spaces.
And in some ways, the most rapidly growing cities and regions—Phoenix, Denver, and Seattle, and cities such as Portland and Salt Lake City on the Forbes 2017 list of America’s fastest-growing cities—already are overextended, says Philip A. Stoker, assistant professor in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona.
For example, the Denver Regional Council of Governments reports that, by 2040, the city will likely see rush-hour traffic extended by hours, adding risk for traffic backups and collisions. In San Diego, renting and buying have become increasingly difficult, contributing to the region’s growing homelessness problem. San Francisco historically has experienced limited space, high congestion, and housing costs at about three times the national average.
In response, cities have begun to adopt more mixed-use development, where single buildings or blocks contain not only housing, but also restaurants, grocery stores, cultural centers and the like. Also, some are placing a greater emphasis on walkability, which carries financial, environmental, health-related, and social benefits.
Stoker works to best integrate land-use planning with the management of natural resources—with a specific focus on water.
“The importance of the environment on our economy, social well-being, and humanity cannot be overstated,” he says.
Stoker and researchers from the University of Utah created a typology of urban neighborhoods that share distinctive combinations of natural, built, and social structures expected to shape water system dynamics. Typology isn’t usually part of urban planning, but the data can help planners create water systems that encourage social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
Stoker, coauthor of a new study in the journal Science of the Total Environment, discusses the future of cities in the face of changes in climate and environment.
Source: University of Arizona
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