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2002-09-01
Washington, D.C. Sprawl development worsens drought problems.

Sprawl is bad for the environment -- on many levels. Another example of this was featured in an August 28th. article by Reuters news service. According to the article, suburban malls, and other developments with large impervious parking lots, have worsened the drought, which is now affecting half the United States. These huge paved landing strips block billions of gallons of rainwater from seeping through the soil to restore ground water. The Natural Resources Defense Council, American Rivers, and Smart Growth America have estimated the ground water losses due to suburban sprawl over the past two decades. The report highlights the Atlanta, Georgia metro area, where sprawl has added 57 billion to 133 billion gallon of polluted water runoff each year. The lost water in Atlanta would be enough to satisfy the use of 3.6 million people a year. The Boston metro area was also profiled as spoiled by sprawl. Between 44 billion and 103 billion gallons of water are lost in the Hub area. Philadelphia ranked third, with 25 billion to 59 billion gallons of water unable to return to the soil."Sprawl development is literally sending billions of gallons of badly needed water down the drain each year -- the storm drain," said Betsy Otto of American Rivers. "Sprawl hasn't caused this year's drought, but sprawl is making water supply problems worse in many cities," she said. According to the report, 4 in 10 Americans get their water directly from underground sources. Ground water also supplies half of the water in the rivers and lakes that serve everyone else. "As overdevelopment washes more rain water away instead of replenishing the water table, drought conditions get worse," said Deron Lovaas, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Sprawl is hanging us out to dry." Reuters quotes government figures as indicating that every hour in America, another 365 acres of open space is converted to suburban sprawl. One way to ameliorate polluted stormwater runoff is to design parking lots with ample vegetated spaces -- not just thin islands, to allow water to seep directly into the ground.








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What you can do: When developers present their site plans at the local level, they often dazzle local officials with thick stormwater management plans, with detention ponds and oil/water separators, etc. that promise the water leaving their site will be cleaner than rainwater. Citizens groups can't pay for expert witnesses to rebut these claims, but studies like one released this week suggest that ground water supplies are being harmed as parking lot water is carried away from the ground water supply. The environmental groups have asked for more money to be spent researching the impact of sprawl on ground water, but you might as well wait for a 100 year flood to come before such monies will be found. In the meantime, sprawl is hanging us out to dry. For more information, contact the National Resources Defense Council or American Rivers.










 
 
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