Monday, April 4, 2011

Urban Watershed Restoration

I was formerly involved with a nonprofit, North East Trees, that uses nature's services and mimics hydrological cycles to restore natural conditions in the urban environment. This includes creating rain gardens, green streets, unpaving the concrete jungle, and providing pocket parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some of this work, like tree planting, is done through the youth program that involves kids in stewardship of their local neighborhoods.

Examples of this are the Oros Street project, and the Garvanza project, which is ongoing and updated here. A map of other projects can be found on this web page. These projects implement specific stormwater conservation measures as they have been adopted by the County of Los Angeles. They also incorporate local works of art as part of their functional design elements.

Stormwater conservation techniques, known as Best Management Practices (BMP's) can be applied through management techniques specified by Los Angeles County. There's a stormwater quality page here, and a Low Impact Design Ordinance page here, as well. These strategies need to be incorporated early in the design phase, using urban design tools and planning integration. The full LA County Southern California LID Manual is available for download here, as a 6 MB pdf file.

There are four distinct Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning regions within Los Angeles County: Greater LA, Gateway Cities, Upper Santa Clara River, and the Antelope Valley. All of them have strategic plans for integrating these watershed management techniques using the the BMP tools for implementation. Planners and designers should become familiar with these tools very early in the process so that their plans throughout the County comply with these regulatory measures.

In summary, North East Trees is about involving the local residents in youth and community networks to restore their neighborhoods with green spaces that work to save water and replenish our aquifers.