Sprawl Exacerbates Drought

It’s a hot summer and there’s not enough rain. And according to The Atlantic Cities’ Kaid Benfield, sprawl is making that problem even worse.

Benfield wrote last week that sprawl makes drought worse in two ways:

First, the large-lot residential development characteristic of sprawl uses significantly more water than do neighborhoods built to a more walkable scale, contributing to water shortages. According to EPA research, for example, in Utah 60 percent of residential water use is for watering lawns and landscaping; households on 0.2-acre lots use only half as much water as those on 0.5-acre lots.

Later, he notes the second problem:

The second way in which suburban sprawl exacerbates the impacts of drought is by spreading more pavement around watersheds, sending billions of gallons of rainwater into streams and rivers as polluted runoff, rather than into the soil to replenish groundwater.

This is a major problem and I’m at least as much a part of it as anyone; though I don’t live in a suburb I water my yard which, because it’s on a corner, ended up being bigger than I realized when I first bought it.

But in any case, there are a couple of lessons from Benfield’s article. The most obvious is that sprawl needs to be stopped. That’s an idea that many urban experts embrace today, but this information provides yet another good reason to work toward that goal. The other lesson is that in places where sprawl exists we should be thinking of ways to eliminate excess water usage and increase density.

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2 Comments

Filed under Development, environment

2 responses to “Sprawl Exacerbates Drought

  1. mmm

    You do live in a suburb. Provo is a suburb of Salt Lake.

    • How do you define a suburb? I’d argue that by any technical metric, it’s also false. Provo is its own statistical metro area, for example, and was not built as a satellite city. It’s as close to SLC as some suburbs are to their anchor cities, but proximity alone is rarely, if ever, used to define a suburb.

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