Carnegie Mellon University, School of Architecture
Nizar Eldahar, CMU PhD candidate at CMU, started his guest lecture in our class with a typical image of the water cycle. He pointed out the fact that the way in which we think about the water cycle is removed from our impact on it. If we start to think about water in the context of urbanity, it takes on a completely new character. In Chapter 2 of Cities and Natural Process, Michael Hough highlights the fact that urbanization creates a new hydrological environment. Our impact on the watershed is particularly interesting in Pittsburgh. The combined sewage system is notoriously frequents being over capacity. Alcosan reports CSO from May 1- October 31. So far, this season has seen 49 likely wet weather overflow events. Of course, the CSO problem has to be addressed at a regional level, and Alcosan is tasked with this huge problem. The consent decree with the EPA requires a comprehensive plan regional plan and huge public works projects. However, we’ve been discussing in class not just the use of best water best management practices but the importance of reduction in consumption in the first place. Hough points out that the introduction of piped water in cities increased consumption from an average of 13.5 liters a day to 180 and 270 liters a day. I think it is particularly interesting to think about how the visibility of consumption and the fact that being aware of our ecological footprint can really impact the consumption of our resources. I brought up the example of Bogota, in the mid-90’s a series of forward-thinking mayors made changes to the city. Mayor Antanas Mockus implemented a water use reduction strategy in which Shakira or himself thanked citizens for their conservation of water instead of a busy dial tone. With this, the consumption of water in the city was reduced by 8 to 16 percent. Instead of implementing rations, conservation was voluntary but was achieved naturally due to spread awareness of the water crisis.