36. Develop a Sponge City Approach to Stormwater Management

Because of the way cities have evolved, increasingly impermeable and expansive,  they have displaced the natural hydrologic systems that processed stormwater with ease and efficacy.  These systems were adaptable, managing variable wet and dry conditions, while also supporting the biodiversity necessary to sustain a healthy ecosystem.  Now, stormwater is often seen as a waste product.  It’s clear that the current engineered solutions are overburdened.  Beyond that, simply expanding these grey storage networks doesn’t lead to a better functioning system. Processing more stormwater through traditional wastewater treatment plants leads to diluted biological digestion, which doesn’t effectively process the effluent that’s collected there.  It’s clear that the best approach is to prevent the water from entering that system at all.

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Enter the Sponge City, an ecologic approach to hold, clean, and drain water.  It’s a process that two years ago, China began implementing in response to expansive fatal flooding.  Turenscape, who has pioneered the approach, has had a series of successful projects which combine both ecologic sensitivity with artistic flare.  Fundamentally, it’s not just swapping out grey technology for green.  It’s designing adaptable and resilient places with integrated approaches to stormwater management that solve more than one issue.

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