Water is essential to life and the natural environment. It should be a central organizing element in a healthy and sustainable built environment, making planning for water an inherently interdisciplinary activity. Planners play a key role in shaping the location and form of development and conservation of the natural environment, as well as a natural role as conveners across disciplines.
Water and Planning Network
American Planning Association's newest Interest Group — the Water and Planning Network — provides a professional forum for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and planning methods.
This network operates as communications and information sharing network to connect members to the best planning practices that reflect current research, science, policy, and technology regarding the protection, management, and use of water resources and utilities.
The network strives to educate its members regularly with updates on constantly evolving research and technology in the field of water planning. The Water and Planning Network provides periodic updates on current research, leading practices, and tools related to planning for water.
In this post, we put forth a few notable tools to help you address these issues in your community.
Office for Coastal Management – Digital Coast
APA is a partner in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Digital Coast, an innovative experiment designed to bring focused data, tools, and training to the people charged with addressing the development and environmental challenges facing coastal communities.
The Digital Coast has a multitude of tools that can be customized to individual needs and requirements. For example, the Impervious Surface Analysis Tool calculates the percentage of impervious surfaces for a selected geographic area such as watersheds, municipalities, and subdivisions.
Other tools relevant to planners include:
- Habitat Priority Planner: This tool helps identify priority locations for conservation, restoration, and planning through interactive community engagement. It applies the assessment of habitat conditions and uncertainties through the creation of maps, reports, and data tables.
- Atlas of Ocean Wealth: This tool maps ecosystem services and their values for use in natural resource planning, using or building the best possible model or using GIS spatial analyses to process and derive ecosystem service values at various spatial scales.
- Marxan with Zones: This tool supports conservation planning design and evaluation. It develops multiple-use zoning plans for natural resource management. Users can employ this tool to meet ecological, social, and economic objectives.
Net Blue: Supporting Water-Neutral Community Growth
"Communities urgently need to address the disconnect between land use decisions and water resources if they are to enjoy continued population and economic growth."
—Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO, Alliance for Water Efficiency.
Net Blue is a collaborative initiative of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the Environmental Law Institute, and River Network to support sustainable community growth. It is essentially a model ordinance that communities can tailor and customize to create a water demand offset approach meeting local needs.
Communities in different regions throughout the U.S. were consulted to help develop the model ordinance and the offset components, and to ensure that the program is adaptable to many different political climates, legal frameworks, and environmental challenges. The Net Blue Ordinance Toolkit can help communities pursue sustainable development without increasing overall water demands. The toolkit and additional resources may be accessed at www.net-blue.org.
Greenprint Resource Hub
The Greenprint Resource Hub is intended to help planners, policymakers, and the public learn about greenprints and how they can be utilized to identify strategic conservation opportunities in their communities. It was developed by The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and The Trust for Public Land.
A greenprint is a strategic conservation plan and/or tool that reveals the economic and social benefits that parks, open space, and working lands provide communities. Such benefits include recreation opportunities through the use of parks and trails, habitat protection and connectivity, clean water, agricultural land preservation, and increased resilience to climate change.
Through community engagement and advanced computer modeling, West Fork San Jacinto Watershed Greenprint blends community priorities with science and research to identify lands with the highest values for voluntary conservation. This project aimed for protection of water quality and access to water-based recreation. Another featured greenprint is the Bay Area Greenprint.
Through the development of a greenprint, stakeholders help to identify, map, and prioritize areas important to the conservation of water resources, among other important elements. The greenprint process allows local officials to develop a coordinated strategy for channeling development to the most appropriate locations to avoid conflicts while protecting important natural resources. At a minimum, a greenprint allows interested stakeholders to understand and communicate about providing a range of benefits.
Top image: Pacific Ocean off Central America. Image courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.
About the Author
Gulafshan Ghori is a program development and research intern with APA.