You who may be subscribers to “Nature Conservancy” magazine might have noticed an article in the just-released Summer 2017 edition called: “Liquid Assets: Five large cities invest in upstream conservation to improve water quality for their residents.” (“Liquid Assets” is the principal source of this post, particularly as to the infographics shown here, the keys to them and quote marks denoting article text.)
The cities are: São Paulo, Brazil; Nairobi, Kenya; Albuquerque and San Antonio, NM and Savannah, GA.
What immediately caught my attention is the 2-part infographic shown here about how conservation practices upstream of cities protect their water supplies while saving money.
The first infographic is of a degraded watershed–
“In many cities worldwide,” where watersheds are degraded, “drinking-water supplies are greatly affected by how land is managed. Practices that clear forests, increase erosion and create pollution reduce both water quality and reliability.”
The key to this infographic describes each denoted data point-
An accompanying Return on Investment sidebar graphic, showing a glass of murky water, reads: “Water users pay a significant cost for industrial treatment of direct water when it reaches the city.”
This second graphic is of a healthy watershed–
Showing a clear glass of water, the healthy watershed Return on Investment sidebar reads: “Rather than pay for expensive industrial filtration, water users pay upstream landowners to use good farming practices and to conserve or restore natural areas that protect water at the source.”
I could report on San Antonio, a TX city that fascinates me ’cause I have yet to visit its highly acclaimed River Walk.
But a sense of environmental justice for the water-deficit country of Kenya causes me to share information about Nairobi’s water problems and a water fund solution being implemented.
Over the last 25 years and some, Nairobi’s population has doubled to 4m. 95% of these rely on water from the mountainous Upper Tana River watershed. Hillside agriculture during these recent years has “exacerbated erosion that periodically chokes the city’s water system with silt, stopping water service for days.” Of late, the Nature Conservancy has stepped in to work with the Kenyan government, utilities and corporations (including intensive water users Coca-Cola and East Africa Breweries) to create a conservation water fund.
Erosion control has been enhanced by terraced farming and buffer zones along streams at about 15k farms, funded by the Governance Board of the Nairobi Water Fund. Other initiatives have been put in place.
Late last year, “water clarity levels approached World Health Organization standards for the first time since measurements began.”
Unfortunately, water rationing requirements were instituted 1/1/17 by the Nairobi county government. Lesser rainfall beginning in May 2016 led to slower recharge of the rivers feeding the Ndakaini dam at the lower boundary of the Upper Tana River watershed which as of mid-April was 21% of its usual level.
But, it could have been worse were it not for the measures started in the upstream watershed.
Picking up where I last left off on resiliency, Development Projects Featuring “Resilience” to Climate Change (Pt 2), I noted a major project is well underway to help lessen the effects of future extreme climate events on the people and property on Staten Island. You’ll recall Superstorm Sandy absolutely clobbered Staten Island in 2012, claiming 233 lives and $Bs in property destruction?
AIA Baltimore’s guest lecturer back in late March was Gena Wirth, Design Principal at SCAPE, a landscape and urban design studio in NYC. Her topic: “Climate Change Migration.”
One of the projects she talked about is the subject of today’s post; their winning design, in collaboration with engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff and others, for the $60M Living Breakwaters competition for Staten Island.
Offered at the presentation was a handout which reads that newly constructed in-water infrastructure at Staten Island, adaptive to future climate change, will be linked with on-shore education to increase public awareness of ecosystems, their restorations and maintenance requirements.
Back in June 2013, HUD launched a competition called “Rebuild by Design” in response to Superstorm Sandy. The principal goal was to promote a design-led approach to proactive planning for long-term resilience and climate change adaptation.”
According to the NYS Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), one of the selected projects was: “The Staten Island Living Breakwaters Project which proposed a layered resiliency approach to promote risk reduction through erosion prevention, wave energy attenuation, and enhancement of ecosystems and social resiliency.”
That would be Gena’s firm, as lead.
Here are excerpts from the GOSR’s report–
The project area is Raritan Bay (Lower New York Harbor) along the shoreline of Tottenville and Conference House Park.., “a shallow estuary that has historically supported commercial fisheries and shell fisheries.”
Tottenville, located at the southernmost point of Staten Island, was among the hardest hit by wave action in the region. Known as “The Town the Oyster Built,” the locale was once protected by a wide shelf and oyster reefs–Gena called them “reef streets”–and was harvested by local oystermen. Now, much of Staten Island’s shoreline is absent these natural systems and remains exposed to coastal erosion and extreme wave action.
Some of you are going to want to spend the nearly 12 mins. viewing this video case study of the project’s design considerations, conception and development. Great stuff!
Yale University’s Climate Change Opinion Maps are really helpful to organizations, businesses, government and just plain folks. These maps span a hefty number of surveys or polling on various aspects and consequences of global warming, including behavior.
This work is conducted by a team of psychologists, geographers, political scientists, statisticians, pollsters and communication scientists as per the program’s website.
Here are some info graphics to whet your appetite-
Go here to explore for yourselves the myriad of offerings. Is your worldview reflected in anything you see?
Do you take exception to global warming opinions shared by your neighbors, community organizations or local political leaders? Click here to learn about “Global Warming’s Six Americas”.
Are your energy and water bills higher than your neighbors because you haven’t installed LEDs and low-flow plumbing fixtures in your home? Don’t know? According to Yale’s program, more than half of those interested in global warming seldom/never talk about it with family/friends. Think your neighbors are among these? (:-)
P.P.S. The other side of the Memorial Day long weekend I’m thinking to relax the once weekly postings. Never done this since the beginning–2013. Readership is usually less during the summer.
Pt 1 on the subject, a couple weeks back, was about The Wharf, a 24-block resilient development along 1 mi. of Washington, DC waterfront.
Today: Harvard’s Spaulding Rehab Hospital, located in the Inner Harbor of Boston. And, a late addition of related interest.
Spaulding, set in Boston’s former Charlestown Navy Yard and opened in 2013, is designed for 4 days of “island mode” operations. All of the mechanical equipment, and the 13k volt electric switch-gear/service (drawn through a concrete chase) is located on the roof of the 9-story $225m building. Overall, it’s reported that resilence-programmed design and construction added about $1.5m to total development costs.
Designed by Perkins+Will, the 1st floor of the building is 30 in. above the 500-yr. flood elevation, keeping water out even during a catastrophic flood. A flooded 1st floor would not affect ongoing hospital care operations on the floors above.
Large blocks of granite discovered during site excavation have been repurposed as berms arranged to direct floodwaters from Boston Harbor and the Little Mystic River away from the property. Rapid site drainage from flooding has also been designed into the waterfront landscaping.
Another important concept of resilience, sheltering in place, is provided through keyed, operable (triple-glazed) windows that also afford significant daylighting. Another is a very high level of building insulation throughout. It’s reported that the energy EUI (energy use intensity) of the 262,000 sf, 132-bed hospital is 150 Btu/sf/yr. That’d be about half of that of the average American hospital.
Co-generation on-site provides about 25% of the building’s power needs, aimed at peak demand periods. Captured waste heat is used for water heating and other sues.
Power redundancy is provided by 2 rooftop back-up diesel generators which can power certain operating requirements for at least 4 days; or longer if electrical loads can be dialed back. The fuel tank and pump, located in the basement, are encased in a submarine-like bunker.
From the most recent presentation on Resilience attended (I walked a few blocks from my office to attend this one on the M.I.C.A. campus) came some knowledge about a fascinating project for Staten Island, NY. Daunting engineering, for one. Watch for it soon.
Return to Old Stomping Grounds for a Look at Flood Mitigation Devices–
In Annapolis, city officials are considering flood mitigation devices to protect its historic City Dock area. Unlike new construction projects or a singular major renovation of an existing property where a business/es operate, the historic City Dock is populated by scores of mom-‘n-pop retailers, museums, restaurants, the Market House, a hotel and several B&Bs, and some retail or restaurant chains. Hard to elevate streets of ’em to storm surge and projected sea rise levels due to global warming.
AquaFence USA is one of two companies recently invited to demonstrate their mobile fence protection product.
The Capital‘s Chase Cook wrote: “The fence is a raised structure of varying heights [4′-8’] and a base that sits underwater. The weight of the water on the base prevents the forward momentum of the water from pushing over the fence, company officials said. And each plate is interlocked to the other with tarps that make it possible to shift and shape the fence as needed.
“Constructed of marine grade laminate, stainless steel, aluminum and reinforced PVC canvas, AquaFence systems become stronger as floodwater pressure is applied.” (Source: company’s website.)
The other company is U.S. Flood Control Corp. which displayed its TigerDam product.
The Miquon Creek Steam Restoration Project is today’s topic in honor of the recently celebrated Earth Day.
I learned about this project in a presentation by water resources engineering firm Biohabitats at “Engineering Green Maryland” last November in Baltimore. With permission from the school, Biohabitats’ Brett Long, P.E., shared information and images from his presentation.
The Miquon School, an independent founded in 1932, is located in Conshohocken, PA, an old mill town situated along the Schuylkill River in suburban Philadelphia. The name is derived from an Algonquin language and means either “elegant-ground-place” or “large-bowl-ground-place.” (courtesy Wikipedia.)
The school’s mission is Progressive Education for pre-K through 6th grade. Progressive education embraces 9 tenets. “The natural world is a place to learn” is one of ’em. In the recent years, Miquon has expanded its mission by adopting the SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program which training of teachers and staff impacts classroom discussions, curriculum development, and educational activities across the grades.
To fund the stream restoration project, a $95k grant from the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s “Growing Greener” program was won. Another $71k was raised from school and camp families, alumni, staff and a small host of other contributors.
The project is located in the southerly end of the Schuylkill River Watershed. Here are images of the creek both under normal conditions and during a 2009 storm. (Note the vertical utility box in the background, verifying same location for the comparative photos.)
Down-cutting into an existing stream channel, called stream incision¹, may be seen in the pix right showing high channel embankments. What causes stream incision is watershed hydrology–runoff amount and duration following a storm–where the stream channel and adjacent floodplain come out of balance with one another.² One source of imbalance is flash flooding, or heavy storm flow events which in turn can cause stream bank riparian buffers³ to be lost through failing vegetation.
What adds to potential stream erosion is increasing average total annual precipitation and more extreme storms.
Healthy stream beds are ones where the water level is nearly even with the surrounding land (floodplain). This is more likely when the impervious cover in the watershed is a lower rather than higher percentage of total land. Too much impervious cover lessens ground absorption of rainwater, typically resulting in increasing flow rate with accumulating sediment headed to a river or stream embankment. This stimulates prospects for eroded streams, or stream incisions, in the watershed.
Biohabitats’ project manager advised the school that repair strategies include: pond retrofits; infiltration/sand berms; stream restoration; regenerative stormwater conveyance; and, bioretention. Examples of previously completed projects employing certain of these strategies are show in 3 before/after pix adjacent.
Miquon selected stream restoration since it was the most feasible option to immediately address watershed hydrology effects on its property. Adopting stream restoration strategies would:
Of the stream restoration strategies, one involved building in-stream structures such as riffles (raised stream bed “bridges” as in the first pix adjacent) and boulder cascades.
This plan took 4 years to accomplish. From watershed assessment, concept evaluation, funding acquisition, design and multiple permits through construction. (One permit was for a Wetland and Bog Turtle Assessment.)
The recommended restoration strategies were synced with the school’s curriculum. Biology, ecology, botany, hydrology, math, etc. Even art. One related student project is something called Bioblitz!, a National Park Service program. Another is the Leaf Pack Network, an initiative of the Stroud Water Research Center.
In this belated Earth Day 2017 paean, hats off to Miquon School staff and students, project funders and the impressive work of the Biohabitats pros!
¹ Steam incision is further defined by stream bed embankments becoming two or more times higher than the stream “bankfull” (normal water level in the stream).
² Perhaps this Channel Evolution model illustration helps?
³ Riparian buffers are vegetated areas that help shade and partially protect streams from adjacent land use impacts.
The more attention on resilience strategies/outcomes being added to our built environment the better I feel.
I blogged about resilience to climate change awhile back: “Resilience addresses shocks and stresses, and, while not geared toward any single shock or stress, anticipates a future way of life in our cities and towns that will reveal corresponding traumas. (Here’s that post.) Since then I’ve attended several presentations about the subject.
One was held back in March at the National Building Museum in D.C. Love this building for its scale, both outside and in. The 1,200 LFT terra cotta frieze that wraps the exterior facades of this very large, historic building depicts Union armies of the Civil War. For many of its years, this 1887-completed building was known as the Pensioner Building. It housed the U.S. Pension Bureau which accounted for hundreds of thousands who fought.
The title for this presentation was “Resilient Design–District Wharf.” Katherine Burgess, of ULI’s Urban Resilience Program, introduced the program. Her definition of resilience complements the one I used. Hers: “The ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” Coinage of the word resilience these days often centers around extreme climate events.
Presenters: Hilary Birtsch, architect/Perkins Eastman project manager for The Wharf; Matt Steenhoek, development vice president for PN Hoffman/associate project director for The Wharf; and, Elinor Bacon of E. R. Bacon Development.
Overall plan of this 1-mi. long, multi-phased $2.2B waterfront “neighborhood” project of 27 acres includes these programming/design goals:
From a strict sustainability perspective, including resilience, project goals comprise:
Other notable, resilient buildings mentioned were the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s new Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach (blogged about here), and Harvard University’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, located in the Inner Harbor of Boston.
Spaulding Rehab will soon be featured in Pt 2 on this subject.
Don’t miss it. Subscribing to the blog is one way not to…
This past Saturday, Earth Day 2017, coincided with The March for Science, as you know. (Isn’t this official poster awesome? Also looks like a horse rearing up, kicking its front legs in the air!)
From the meetup.com #Resist: Baltimore website: “This Earth Day, join the effort to defend the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world…
I’ve long held the view that there are more than enough lawyers planted in Congressional seats. We need diverse academic and work backgrounds to hope for governance in an enlightened fashion.
One example of this need is when former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared:
One non-lawyer is U.S. Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL). He’s the only physicist–a Ph.D–there. But, he speaks clearly. And, with even temper.
From his website: “Foster is a businessman as well as a scientist. He serves on the House Committee on Financial Services, a position he also held in the 110th and 111th Congress, and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.”
On Ira Flatow’s “Science Friday” show last week Foster opined that science is local rather than national. Just ask Jeanne Walton, a March for Science middle school teacher from York, PA, who “…worried about the effect of some current political rhetoric on her students. ‘I’m watching science being denied and undermined.'” (The Los Angeles Times, 4/23/17)
Following are excerpts from a recent opinion piece by Foster (linked here) at the Daily Herald‘s website. I’ve bullet-pointed ’em for easier reading:
This is due, in my view, to the out-sized influence and deception “bought” by monied interests these days, i.e., think tanks, PACs, and lobbyist-furnished drafts of legislation along with financial bennies of every kind. (Read Oreskes and Conway’s Merchants of Doubt for a viewpoint.)
Others are getting, or trying to get into the act. Linked here is a piece in Science magazine about a fly biologist making a bid for a U.S. Senate seat.
And, just for kicks: “What if every scientist and engineer in the U.S. marched?” How many would that be? See here.
Let’s get more of these types into governance leadership positions! (Lawyers staff up these public offices anyway.)
♠♥ Science Informs Sustainable Building and Low-Impact Development Design ♦♣
In last weekend’s Baltimore Sun, a “Readers Respond” letter was offered by Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
“Last month, Sens. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, introduced bipartisan legislation dedicating funding to tackle the backlog [needed repair/maintenance of National Park Service sites/infrastructure] over the next 30 years.
“…we must…take this time to recognize that our national parks are facing $12 billion in needed infrastructure repairs and not enough staff or money for them.”
A 3/28/17 press release from Sen. Warner’s office (linked here) says: “This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects, including $75 million of deferred maintenance in Ohio’s eight national park sites.” Further:
“Eighty percent of the funds in the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund will be dedicated for the repair and rehabilitation of key assets, including historic structures, visitor facilities, water utility systems, disability access, health and safety, and recreation. Twenty percent of funds will be allocated to roads, bridges, and other transportation-related projects. Amounts from the fund will not be used for land acquisition or used in lieu of funding made available for recurring facility operations and maintenance needs of the Park Service. The bill will also encourage public-private partnerships to help reduce overall deferred maintenance costs by allowing the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the Park Service to accept qualified private donations.”
Please–don’t miss this chance to inform your representatives in Congress of your full-throated support for S. 751 bill, the Warner-Portman National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund, and its funding provisions! (I have.) It’s a generation-to-generation thing, right?
Let’s not risk these most special places of recreation and life-long learning throughout our land to…