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The Water-Sustainable City

Science, Policy and Practice

David L. Feldman

Cities place enormous pressures on freshwater quality and availability because they are often located some distance from the water sources needed by their populations. This fact compels planners to build infrastructure to divert water from increasingly distant outlying rural areas, thus disrupting their social fabric and environment. In addition, increasing urbanization due to population growth, economic change, and sprawl places huge burdens upon the institutions, as well as the infrastructure, that deliver, protect, and treat urban water. This book assesses the challenges facing the world’s cities in providing reliable, safe, and plentiful supplies through infrastructural, economic, legal, and political strategies.
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Chapter 7: Opportunities to satisfy urban water needs while addressing the urban stream syndrome

David L. Feldman


This chapter examines the little explored problem of the urban stream syndrome – a condition in which the health of urban streams is poor. Notable symptoms of this stream syndrome include altered stream flow, morphology, water quality, and ecosystem structure and function. While underlying causes of the urban stream syndrome vary among watersheds, in general its hydrologic symptoms are associated with: replacing grassland and/or forests with impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, roofs and sidewalks; building drainage and flood control infrastructure to rapidly convey storm water runoff to streams (so-called formal drainage systems); and altering catchment water budgets (for example, through water imports and exports). Increasing imperviousness reduces infiltration and evapotranspiration of rainfall, while formal drainages increase the hydraulic connectivity between watersheds and streams.

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