Going with the Flow: Water as a Critical Driver of Urbanization

Story written by Crystal Burgess, Lucie Worthen, and Joseph Wasswa

In light of the Syracuse Center of Excellence (CoE) Symposium on October 4th, EMPOWER trainees set the tone by discussing urban hydrology and related innovative research. Urbanization is not only growing worldwide, it is also adapting and changing to new environmental pressures as drinking water supplies and urban ecosystems are being affected. Students talked about the concept of urban evolution introduced in a review paper titled Urban Evolution: The Role of Water by Kaushal et al. The authors placed emphasis on how our relationships and interactions with water have changed, though water remains a foundation of civilization. Kaushal et al. created a model identifying the hydrological and social consequences over time from the industrial period to present day. With each period, we have adapted and redefined our relationship with water. The authors emphasize these responses are reflective of multiple perspectives. Biologist, geologists, engineers, government officials, business sectors, and the public all influence urban adaptations. Many EMPOWER trainees were curious about the interdisciplinary aspects of urban land management. Ph.D. student Darci Pauser stated that she was intrigued by how water acts as a constraint that can “shape urban development and all socio-economic development.”

Trainees also reviewed two case studies by Lauren McPhillips and Sarah Ledford. The two researchers presented their projects relating to water in urban environments at the CoE symposium. Sarah Ledford studies nitrogen cycling in Meadowbrook Creek in Syracuse. Nitrate is one of the main water pollutants sourced from fertilizers and wastewater systems. In her paper she recommends that stream managers take a mindful approach to removing nitrate as it relates to their restoration goals. Lauren McPhillips also focused on nutrient cycles across lawns and ditches within residential neighborhoods. During her presentation, McPhillips mentioned residents approached her in the field and was curious about her work. She went on to stress the importance of communication and community engagement. As urban environments continue to change our concerns for better water management calls everyone to the conversation.

To learn more about the Syracuse Center of Excellence (CoE) Symposium, please go to http://syracusecoe.syr.edu/2017-syracusecoe-symposium/