Foundation for Investments

Our mission is to be a catalyst for positive and lasting change leading to healthier environments and communities.

Foundation for Investments

David Waggonner
Principal, Waggonner & Ball Architects

Water management is a matter of scale and a question of balance. As resources are strained, systems tested by climate extremes, and populations migrate within and between watersheds, adaptation becomes primary. Solutions require thinking in time, as well as with space, to convert legacy systems for a continuum of change that will allow us to make “no-regrets” investments.

What principles order our water management priorities? Safety and dependability remain basic requirements, especially as uncertainty and variability increase. Regional system management and regulation should be differentiated from more place- and landscape-based component and network design. Resource recovery must be maximized, and all forces of water factored. Prioritizing the ecosystem, which gives us temporal, as well as spatial scale, helps to restore the natural balance and critical connection between surface water, ground cover and groundwater. As science and design inform engineering, the water system underlies and informs water infrastructure.

We must also remember that disruption of the water cycle affects risk. Systems that overpower the base layer of soils, water and biodiversity cause rifts in the pattern of the natural and constructed landscape, as well as in infrastructure and habitation layers. While freshwater is the life blood of the earth, groundwater is the sustaining basis of the water system. Simply allowing some stormwater to seep into the ground is not adequate in areas with weak soils like New Orleans and the Netherlands. Such places need strong governance, with surface water level controls and groundwater monitoring. Solutions appropriate to particular conditions – and avoidance of single-purpose systems that ignore place – capture benefits inherent to inclusive, integrated approaches. Location-specific applicability, region-wide replicability, and linkage between elements allow good design to propagate.

At the same time, education is essential to build the awareness and understanding needed to induce action at the pace required. This begins as a process of asset appreciation – to make water visible and transcend the prevalent out-of-sight, down-the-drain mass mindset. Water is the sustaining medium, a continuum that intersects, integrates and renews. It is our shared interest, and in the near future, the roothold of the polis. It is at once elemental and transcendent. Restoring the water balance is vital to society and the economy as well as ecology. There is no equivalent investment we can make in our future.

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