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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

“We have to confront the reality that we live in a desert, have a limited water supply and cannot sustain current land use patterns or water use practices given forecasted population increases.”

I started to write this month’s article during my recent visit to the great City of Portland, Oregon. While in Portland I had the opportunity to be on an exclusive tour of the city and learn more about their urban planning and smart growth initiatives.

Like Phoenix, Portland is growing in population and is very proactive in finding ways to promote economic development while carefully managing their growth and impacts on the environment. I was truly amazed at what I discovered on this tour. Portland has raised the bar for cities trying to go Green. They are a national leader in bicycle commuting in lieu of cars, own an extremely effective mass transit system, created a revolutionary recycling program; they even merged their Bureau of Planning with their office of Sustainable Development. Planning and sustainability what a concept!

As I was on the tour bus I was counting farmers markets and food carts like my kids count Circle K, Taco Bell or Subway here in Phoenix. Their neighborhoods are stocked with the innovative strength of independent artists and businesses, thriving and supporting one another. There is so much I would like to share about what I saw and learned that I have decided to use this month to discuss Stormwater Management and use the next two months to discuss “Development Oriented Transit” and the “Future of Brownfields.”

Portland’s innovation has lead to strategies that effectively manage stormwater runoff to enhance community and neighborhood livability and strengthen the local economy. I know most people in South Phoenix don’t get excited about stormwater management, but I think we should and here’s why.

We have to confront the reality that we live in a desert, have a limited water supply and cannot sustain current land use patterns or water use practices given forecasted population increases. According to a 2005 report by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Western United States faces many potential water supply conflicts by the year 2025. Phoenix is on the top of that list due to uncertain water supply, struggles with regional coordination and weak conservation programs.

So what can we as residents of the city of Phoenix do about our potential water conflict? Portland could have some of the answers we need. Not only did they create a comprehensive Stormwater Management plan but also were able to create strong community support and implementation of their plan.

Here are four strategies used in the Portland plan that could work in Phoenix:

“Rainwater Harvesting” – Rainwater harvesting refers to the collection and storage of rain. Collection is usually from rooftops, and storage in catchment tanks. Stored water can be used for non-potable purposes such as irrigating lawns, washing cars, or flushing toilets. Rainwater harvesting systems can range from a simple barrel at the bottom of a downspout to multiple tanks with pumps and controls. Before the creation of public water utilities, rainwater harvesting provided water for many American homes. It is still popular in places with limited water resources such as island communities like Hawaii.

“Ecoroofs” – Ecoroofs are a vegetated roof system used in place of a conventional roof. Ecoroofs are comprised of several layers that include a root barrier, waterproof membrane, drainage, soil system, and plants. Similar to landscaping your yard, the viability of any ecoroof is dependent on many variables such as climate, exposure, soil and plant type, and initial maintenance. With those variables in mind, there are many design opportunities to transform a conventional roof into a beautiful, functional and beneficial space.

“Green Streets” –A street that uses vegetated facilities to manage stormwater runoff at its source is referred to as a Green Street. A Green Street is a sustainable stormwater strategy that meets regulatory compliance and resource protection goals by using a natural systems approach to manage stormwater, reduce flows, improve water quality and enhance watershed health.

“Community Watershed Stewardship Program” – Portland created theCommunity Watershed Stewardship Program (CWSP) as a partnership between Portland Environmental Services, Portland State University and AmeriCorps. The program engages Portlanders in enhancing the health of their watersheds while promoting public awareness of their connection to these natural systems. They offer funding for community projects, help with project planning, and assist in connecting community groups with resources for their projects.

Confronting water issues now is critical to the long-term viability of our community.We have to integrate our watershed policies with local land use decisions.Arizona leaders talk about harvesting the energy of the sun and becoming the world leader in solar power but we should also introduce in that conversation how we can become the water harvesting capital of the world. Water is our most essential resource and cannot be taken for granted, especially in Phoenix.



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