2016 Annual Report: Water

An adequate supply of clean water, reliable water infrastructure, and resources to mitigate and manage the results of storms, floods, droughts, and other events are essential for building and maintaining resilient, sustainable communties. 

APA has affirmed water as an organizational priority. APA's Water Task Force recognized society's need for a more comprehensive approach in which planners are increasingly responsible for addressing water quality and other issues — traditionally left to water utilities — as a part of a community's vision for the future.

Water Working Group

APA's Water Working Group continues the work of advancing planning practice as it relates to water issues. In 2016, the working group conducted a survey focused on planners' engagement in water issues.

Resuls from the Water Working Group survey show that water issues are top-of-mind for many APA members.

Survey respondents also indicated a need for increased collaboration between planning and water agencies and more widespread knowledge about water and planning practice.

Water Policy Guide

The Water Working Group led last year's update of APA's Policy Guide on Water. The policy guide cites water as a "central and essential organizing element" within built environments and recognizes planners' role in water-related decisions. It offers policy guidance on water quantity and quality, water management in the western United States, stormwater and flooding, and water resources vis-à-vis the environment. The guide endorses a One Water approach to water management — where integrated, regional water planning and partnerships are the norm — and for new, interdisciplinary partnerships to make it happen.

Advocacy and Partnership

On behalf of planners, APA successfully advocated for good water policies by supporting the Water Resources Development Act (now the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation [WIIN] Act as it made its way through Congress). This bill was the last major piece of legislation voted on by the 114th Congress. Former President Obama signed it into law on December 16.

Participants in the Water Week event for planners at the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

APA maintained its partnerships with planners, engineers, and officials in The Netherlands.

In a special Water Week event last spring, APA and the Royal Netherlands Embassy hosted an educational session for planners in the DC Metro area that explored how the Dutch are helping U.S. communities of all sizes rethink their water management strategies. For their part, APA presenters emphasized the dire need for investment in water infrastructure and the importance of water planning.

Greater Baltimore Wilderness Project

An APA research team completed work on Greater Baltimore Wilderness: Green Infrastructure for Regional Resilience, a project initiated in response to coastal storms and climate change. APA inventoried green infrastructure planning practices used by jurisdictions in the Baltimore-Annapolis region, researched best practices, and developed a free, five-part toolkit to help local governments resist or mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

APA staff also worked with two volunteer Community Planning Assistance Teams to develop action plans for Harford County and South Baltimore's Brooklyn/Baybrook neighborhood. In Harford County, team members and local planners and residents worked on framing a location-specific green infrastructure network. The Brooklyn/Baybrook plan to increase green infrastructure and community resilience in an area that connects development in South Baltimore to downtown was a topic in October 2016 at "Green Spaces, Cleaner Water, and Stronger Neighborhoods," a White House roundtable in Baltimore organized by former President Obama's Task Force on Baltimore City.

"Green infrastructure will create a more sustainable, resilient Brooklyn/Baybrook area and offer triple-bottom-line benefits — environmental, economic, and social. The plan will serve as a model for other Baltimore neighborhoods to build a healthier, greener, and more sustainable city."

— David Rouse, FAICP
APA Director of Research

Great Urban Parks Campaign

Recognizing the essential role that parks can play in solving urban stormwater management challenges within cities, APA's Green Communities Center began work with the National Recreation and Park Association and the Low Impact Development Center to improve environmental and social outcomes in underserved communities through green infrastructure in local parks. The project kicked off in Spring 2016 when nearly 40 thought leaders convened in Atlanta to discuss how to maximize the benefits of green infrastructure, resulting in a summary of existing research and case studies as well as a report on the group's findings.

Green infrastructure is quickly becoming the go-to economical and environmentally friendly solution to ensure resilience in extreme weather situations, moving beyond the aging, "gray" stormwater management systems. Local parks and open areas are ideally suited for green infrastructure approaches, which often improve and enhance public spaces to benefit communities in multiple ways.

"Parks play an important role in creating communities of lasting value. Incorporating green infrastructure into new or existing parks will enhance each community, making them more sustainable, equitable, and resilient for current and future generations."

— Carol Rhea, FAICP
APA Past-President

Thanks to the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant awards, 2017 will see the completion of four large-scale green infrastructure projects in parks in Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, and Pittsburgh, as well as the creation of evidence-based educational resources for park and recreation leaders and planners nationwide.

Learn more about our efforts to help communities use, conserve, and manage water:

Water concerns infographic by Susan Lee Deegan