Integrated Water Management: New Technologies and Practices Key to Future of Urban Greening

By Peck, Steven | Landscape & Irrigation, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Integrated Water Management: New Technologies and Practices Key to Future of Urban Greening


Peck, Steven, Landscape & Irrigation


While in grade nine, I remember being totally captivated by a book called "Dune," which described a planet in which water was a scarce and incredibly precious resource. Frank Herbert, the genius who wrote an entire series of science fiction books, introduced me, and many others, to the shear enormity and power of water scarcity, and its profound ability to shape and even destroy entire civilizations.

Several years ago I discovered, while speaking about green roofs in Brisbane, Australia, that this city of more than 2 million people was only about 10 months away from the bottom of its aquifer. I wondered, what does one do when that many people, and that many businesses, don't have potable water? Can you really truck that much water into the city? Australian water shortages also establish an over-riding environment that defines what can and cannot be done in terms of urban greening.

In response to water scarcity in many regions of the United States, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) assembled a group of member experts under the early leadership of Chris Peck, to begin to look at holistic approaches to conserve, produce, harvest, store and utilize a variety of water sources in order to be able to provide irrigation water for green roofs and walls in arid climates such as Southern California and Nevada. This early conceptual work has led to formation of an expert committee that is now working to develop these concepts more fully, in partnership with the American Society of Irrigation Consultants. The committee is working under the leadership of Lynda Wightman of Hunter Industries and Jeffrey Bruce of Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company. These subject matter experts are working to advance the state of knowledge and practice on how to capture, treat, store and utilize a wide variety of water sources within, on and around a building and the adjacent site.

Our future ability to retain the many positive benefits of vegetation in cities will hinge directly upon the wise use of our water resources in an increasing number of markets in the years ahead. Pioneering research by Dr. Paul Mankiewicz, of the Gaia Institute in New York City has already demonstrated that the energy-saving potential of green roofs through evapotranspiration can help to significantly offset water resources used to generate electricity used for mechanical cooling. Green roofs can also cool intake air of air conditioning units, resulting in further

energy savings. In other words, energy equals water, and water equals energy--to varying degrees when it comes to green roofs and walls. This expert committee will apply integrated design and management principles and technologies to the issues of water shortage and urban greening. They will have to struggle with the fact that one-size-fits-all solutions simply don't work when it comes water. …

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