Urban Planners Increasing Water Pollution?

Maybe, if this story from Science Daily proves accurate.

An excerpt.

“Urban growth boundaries are created by governments in an effort to concentrate urban development — buildings, roads and the utilities that support them — within a defined area. These boundaries are intended to decrease negative impacts on people and the environment. However, according to a Penn State researcher, policies that aim to reduce urban sprawl may be increasing water pollution.

“What we were interested in was whether the combination of sprawl — or lack of sprawl — along with simultaneous agriculture development in suburban and rural areas could lead to increased water-quality damages,” said Douglas Wrenn, a co-funded faculty member in the Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

“These water quality damages were due to pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, three ingredients that in high quantities can cause numerous environmental problems in streams, rivers and bays. As a part of the EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA), total maximum daily loads (TMDL) govern how much of these pollutants are allowed in a body of water while still meeting water-quality standards.

“According to Wrenn, an associate professor in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, one of the reasons anti-sprawl policies can lead to more water pollution is because higher-density development has more impervious surfaces, such as concrete. These surfaces don’t absorb water but cause runoff. The water then flows into bodies of water, bringing sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus with it.

“Secondly, agriculture creates considerably more water pollution than low-density residential areas. And when development outside of the boundaries that could replace agriculture is prevented, the amount of pollution that could be reduced is lost.

“If you concentrate development inside an urban growth boundary and allow agriculture to continue business as usual,” Wrenn said, “then you could actually end with anti-sprawl policies that lead to an increase in overall water quality damages.”

“Wrenn said it is important for land-use planners in urban areas and especially in urbanizing and urban-fringe counties to understand this.” Retrieved January 19, 2020 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200116132247.htm

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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