Building Right Up To The Shore

Ecological (Macro) Impacts

There is a consensus that urban environmental issues are important, but international agencies can’t seem to agree on how to properly “define the urban environment and identify its critical problems.”

With urban development comes biological, chemical and physical hazards. These hazards are defined as:

Biological hazards — pathogens in solid waste and water, disease vectors and infections

Chemical hazards — air pollutants from stoves to motor vehicles

Physical hazards — overcrowding and poor sanitation.

With the rapidly changing city scape, it must be questioned how international cities have adapted and changed their sanitation practices to compensate. Considering that “poor waste management strategies are the main causes of water and air pollution in urban areas.”

Major cities depend on their water bodies to sustain everyday life. When urbanization is the fastest, “cities are failing to sufficiently prepare themselves.”

The demand for water and the generation of wastewater increases. Water goes from being seen as a therapeutic landscape to a body of water to be used and abused.

“In the developing world, the supply of water has not kept pace with the high demand created by continued and rapid urban population growth combined with rising consumption patterns. Furthermore, the lack of adequate institutional arrangements and infrastructure to manage increasing volumes of wastewater and faecal sludge continue to pose major public health and environmental hazards. Internally, cities’ capacity to deliver adequate and affordable water and sanitation is hampered by many factors such as poor planning, weak governance and legal frameworks, fragile institutions, or low capacity of local authorities to finance, build and operate essential infrastructure.”

This quote sums up the effects of relying too heavily on our “lifeline.” Urban development puts too much pressure on the water supply and fails to keep in mind that water is neither created, nor destroyed.

With mass development globally, governments are putting too much pressure on the land too keep this sustainable.

Urbanization impacts:

  • Population Growth — stress on water resources to supply everyone, look what happened in California.
  • Erosion and Sedimentation — when a storm comes and carries sediment to the nearest body of water, that sediment just sits there. On one hand if it’s all natural the nutrient rich compounds can be good for the water’s health. But, if the sediment is excess waste from a building site that can shorten the lifespan of a water body.
  • Urban Runoff — while surface water maintains the water level in a lake, runoffs carry a lot of sediment. Below is a map of what Florida looked like on two separate occasions after a storm had come through and deposited sediment. Water becomes full with urban waste, and if the run off is polluted it can be harmful to plants, animals, and people.
Taken from the USGS Water School Website
  • Nitrogen — Nitrogen is necessary for plant and animal well-being, but the over-abundance of it can have bad side effects. Excess Nitrogen in the water can lead to a lack of oxygen.
  • Phosphorus — just like Nitrogen, if there is too much Phosphorus in the water it can lead to a lack of oxygen.
  • Sewage Overflows — when sewer sites break down or something within the sanitary system clogs, a sewage overflow is brought on. These overflows allow “human and industrial wastes, oil, toxic metals, pesticides, and litter into streams.”
  • Waterborne Pathogens — Disease causing bacteria breeds in water bodies that are not taken care of properly, causing irreparable harm.
  • Pesticides — pesticides leaching into drinking water is bad news for plants, animals and humans as it contaminates the water and changes the chemistry.

Coming face-to-face with the reality of climate change has brought cities closer to realizing that there needs to be a systemic change in the way governments see and use water.

The degradation of therapeutic landscapes has been directly caused by urban development. This is not a source that should be taken advantage of.

Building right up to the shore is a problem that plagues most large international urban cities. Without direct access to water citizens have no way to access the health benefits that water-based therapeutic landscapes could offer them.