The Quiet Evolution of Water Planning

Erik Porse is a Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to analysis and modeling of innovative water management designs in cities. Eric is the newest addition to the SCI Affiliated Researcher Program.

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A quiet evolution is taking place in how we use and move water within cities throughout the world. In Los Cabos, Mexico, where I am working this summer, we are planning for this evolution.

Traditionally, cities have built infrastructure that supplied residents with water from distant sources and quickly removed rainfall and sewage. Cities acquire water from more pristine sources in rural areas or deep underground. Sewer pipes remove water used in homes, businesses, and industries, while storm drains collect and move water to prevent floods. Treatment plants, which were installed throughout the twentieth century, prevent diseases and environmental pollution.

Today, many cities are developing and deploying a new set of strategies that emphasize conservation and reuse of water, while also trying to reduce contamination in local watersheds.

The evolution is driven by stricter environmental regulations, higher costs for acquiring and treating water, and changing social attitudes. The tools to promote this evolution are numerous, including landscape measures such as bioswales and green roofs, low-flow showerheads and efficient toilets, permeable pavements, and new water treatment technologies.

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“Social Sustainability”: Clarity is in the Context

Freya Kristensen is a PhD candidate in the department Geography at Simon Fraser University and a researcher with the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development. Her work examines how international municipal sustainability networks influence policy learning around sustainability. She is currently participating in the SCI Affiliated Researcher Program.

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What is social sustainability anyway? This is the question I inevitably get when I tell people that the main subject area of my research is how cities understand and operationalize social sustainability.

Most people are genuinely curious but some people, usually academics, say it more with a sneer, as if to say ‘good luck with that’.

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Video: Urban Agriculture in Dar es Salaam

We are pleased to feature a wonderful video written and produced by Tanya Hubbard, one of our recent SCI interns.  Filmed, directed and edited by Shaine Jones, this is a visual story that highlights the impact and importance of urban agriculture in Dar es Salaam, and also looks at the work facilitated by the SCI interns.

A key achievement for us in Dar was that Morgen Zivhave (SCI’s Local Program Coordinator) and our team of interns essentially led the process of protecting space for urban agriculture in the city through the formal Master Planning process (and then facilitated establishing a group of local farmers in one of the new protected areas) as a pilot for the other municipalities to follow. They also helped set up a network for local farmers to exchange info and expertise, modeled after similar networks in Nairobi and Durban, whose work we were able to share with each other through our SCI Peer Exchanges.


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Finding a New Perspective on Urban Resilience

A final blog post from Clara Ganemtoré, one of the first participants in SCIs Affiliated Researcher Program (ARP). Clara recently completed her Master’s degree in regional and urban planning at the London School of Economics. Below is the second of two posts covering the results and insights that came out of her research into Dakar, Senegal. The first post in the series can be found here.

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During the time I spent in Pikine I witnessed a wide variety of individual and collective strategies for dealing with the everpresent risk of flooding. Looking back at that experience, it is clear to me that “local knowledge, local action” does lead to resilience — social resilience that is.

But it does not appear enough to transform the institutions that govern people’s lives.

The residents I encountered do not wish for a tougher skin to be all they have gained from a decade of “self-learning” and local organizing. They want better; they want a permanent solution to the floods. And for that to happen, appropriate government intervention in the form of the construction of a drainage system, with provision for proper sanitation in the suburbs, and transparent allocation of housing to flood victims is urgently needed. Integrating local initiatives into the provision of those long term solutions is a complex endeavour, one for which I could not find any definitive models. I leave you however with these reflections.

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From Household Actions to Community Strategies: Managing Flood Risk in Dakar, Senegal

Clara Ganemtoré, one of the first participants in SCI’s Affiliated Researcher Program (ARP), recently completed her Master’s degree in regional and urban planning at the London School of Economics. Below is the first of two posts covering the results and insights that came out of her research into Dakar, Senegal.

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I set out to Dakar in July 2012, motivated by the idea of witnessing, first hand, what “local knowledge, local action” amounts to in the context of urban disasters. Here is a short summary of my main findings, based on three weeks of meeting with community leaders, interviewing residents and attending conferences.

Residents of Pikine, a suburb of Dakar, live with the near constant threat of inundation from both annual floods and ever rising ground water levels (see “Surviving in a Floodplain” for more on the situation). To deal with this, households have developed a variety of strategies.

Some are simple, if time consuming: the daily evacuation of water using buckets or motor pumps, building walkways with sand bags or large rocks, building rudimentary open air drainage, or simply using rooftops for household chores (cooking or laundry),  for storage and as a social space.

Others require more investment of time and resources: the elevation of septic tanks, installing internal drainage systems, purchasing of motor pumps.

Then there is the temporary or permanent relocation of children or whole families when the waters prove too persistent to fight any longer.

Open air canals dug by residents, 16/07/2012

Open air canals dug by residents, 16/07/2012

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Cycling infrastructure in Cabo San Lucas: strategy, challenges and opportunities

By Simon L’Allier

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The majority of my time working with IMPLAN Los Cabos has been spent planning a network of bicycle infrastructure for the city of Cabo San Lucas. This blog entry outlines the general strategy that I took to accomplish this task and examines some of the main challenges and opportunities related to the planning and implementation of cycling infrastructure in Mexico.

Planning process

The planning process followed the general steps of bicycle infrastructure planning, as outlined in a resourceful publication of the Mexican arm of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP Mexico) known as Ciclociudades . Adapted to the local context, this process can be divided into four main stages:

  1. Diagnostic: The first step of the process is a diagnostic of the current situation of the city of Cabo San Lucas. Painting an accurate picture of the current situation from different angles is crucial in understanding the reality in which the project is being developed. Of course, mobility is a crucial aspect of the analysis as it reflects people’s travel preferences, which are based on people’s origins, destinations and mode of travel. Origins are usually homes and destinations are locations where people work, study, recreate and shop. Based on this information and on other relevant considerations (timeline, resources, political and social acceptability) a study area is identified.
  2. Route analysis and design options: Next, an analysis of land uses, demographics, street characteristics, and key destinations as variables is performed for the study area. These factors are used to compare different route options with the most appropriate design for each case.
  3. Route selection: Based on this comparative analysis, the best routes are selected to create a bicycle infrastructure network. The overall architecture of the network influences the route selection. This means that each route is chosen not on an individual basis, but rather in relation to the overall “fit” with the network. The basic criteria that should define cycling infrastructure, as mentioned in the Ciclociudades publications, are directness, safety, coherence, attractiveness and practicality.
  4. Design options selection: Lastly, design options for each section of the network are proposed based on the above mentioned criteria.

The general approach taken in this study was to try to only use segregated bicycle lanes (Image 1) when on-site conditions required their use, and to try to use the concept of a “shared street”, also known as bicycle boulevards (Image 2), whenever possible. This general strategy ensures the best use of the limited financial resources, given segregated bicycle lanes are more expensive to build than shared streets. The shared street concept implies traffic calming and design measures that create conditions in which cyclists have the priority over vehicles and can ride safely with minimal infrastructure investment.

Image 1: Segregated bicycle lanes (Source: ITDP. Ciclociudades. 2011).

Image 1: Segregated bicycle lanes (Source: ITDP. Ciclociudades. 2011).

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