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River-City Connection: Poorly Understood? Too Complex to Understand or Model?

April 24, 2012Patrick NunnallyUncategorizedComments Off on River-City Connection: Poorly Understood? Too Complex to Understand or Model?

I have been posting a number of articles and links on our River Portal microblog (Yes, we have one.  And yes, you should read it.  It’s here.  Now go and read it.  Good.  You’re back?  Now where was I?)  about sustainability in cities, about the importance of public art in cities, about urban green infrastructure.  What’s all that got to do with rivers?

Well, everything, I think.  Here are some ideas, call them axioms, propositions, definitions, or what have you.

  1. A city that can’t take care of its drinking water, sanitary sewers, and storm water systems well, will inevitably degrade the “natural” water systems (creeks, rivers, groundwater) that permeate the city’s space.
  2. If the population of a city doesn’t know, or care, or love, the water upon which its life depends, then that water system will not sustain the city, or life in the city.
  3. If care for the city’s water systems is not inclusive, is not expanded beyond the “usual suspects” of contemporary environmentalism, urbanism, landscape design and planning, then that care won’t really “take hold” for the duration.
  4. Public art, and other “nontraditional” communication forms and forms of public engagement, are important ways to reach across the widely diverse and varying communities that form a city, and develop a more truly inclusive and engaged constituency for urban water sustainability.
  5. Responsible, thoughtful, effective engagement around urban water issues depends on active knowledge of multiple sciences, the policy and planning and “doing” frameworks by which “change happens,” and means of effective expression and engagement.

There are doubtless other key principles by which the relationships between cities and water (and by extension therefore, rivers) are understood, but these are enough.  This business of understanding rivers, cities and the ties between them is hard!

So, I’d like to hear from you:  where should this understanding start?  What’s the most important piece of the puzzle?  And did I miss any key principles in the list above?


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