Green Communities Center

Water Working Group

"Global water crises — from drought in the world's most productive farmlands to the hundreds of millions of people without access to safe drinking water — are the biggest threat facing the planet over the next decade."
—World Economic Forum

Water Task Force

In 2014 APA created the Water Task Force to evaluate the link between water management and land use planning, and to offer recommendations to APA's Board for improved policy and practice. The creation of the Water Task Force acknowledged the central role of planners to not only be thought leaders but also chief strategists and policy reformers in this discussion.

Comprising a diverse group of planners, landscape architects, economists, policy makers, and academics, the task force evaluated the links between water management and land use planning. With over 30 recommendations under six core themes (listed below) the task force report seeks to further engage all planners in the intensely important community-scale issue of water management.

Six Core Themes identified by Water Task Force:

  1. Water is a central and essential organizing element in a healthy urban environment.
  2. Planning practice needs to apply an integrated, systems-oriented approach to water management
  3. New mechanisms for interdisciplinary interaction are critical to effective water management (including urban planning/design, engineering, landscape architecture, architecture, hydrology, etc.)
  4. Planners need new and improved professional practices to manage water more sustainably and provide greater social equity for access.
  5. Innovative land use planning and urban design is needed to improve/protect water environments.
  6. Adaptive land use, environmental, and infrastructure planning can help to increase resilience to extreme climate events and climate change; reducing risk & helping to manage uncertainty.

As economic and land use patterns and lifestyles change, so have our water needs. What has not changed is the fact that water is essential to the future of every community. Planners should not consider water management to be a specialized issue within the planning field, but rather it should be part of a planner's basic working knowledge and day-to-day practice, a belief echoed throughout the Report.

Water Task Force Report

Read APA's Executive Director Jim Drinan's Perspectives article in the July 2015 issue of Planning magazine for more on the outcome of the Water Task Force Report.

Water Survey Results

The Water Working Group is pleased to announce the results of its February 2016 survey. The responses indicated a deep interest in water issues and planning, the need to become more involved, and the need for APA help in providing planning practitioners with greater support in expanding knowledge and skills about water. The initial summary focused on the short form questions that received 928 responses. A more detailed analysis of the data with additional crosstabs will be performed over the next several months.

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has published the Global Risks report, which ranks the greatest risks to economies, environments, and people. While water crises have made the annual list four times, the 2015 Global Report marks the first time water has moved into the top position for impact, ranking water crises ahead of the spread of infectious diseases, weapons of mass destructions and international conflict.

How we think about — and plan for — current and future water challenges is now more paramount than ever.

Throughout the United States, communities are grappling with ever-increasing challenges posed by water, wastewater, and stormwater management, as well as issues related to access, reliability and quality. From communities suffering from the worst drought to hit the West in U.S. history, to communities along the Eastern seaboard struggling to stay dry from rising seas, planners are increasingly finding themselves at the center of a conversation focused on water regardless of their training or practical experience with water based issues.

2016 Water Working Group Survey Summary of Results


Water and Planning Network

Over the last several years, APA's Water Working Group has been working to identify the needs and priorities of and provide resources to planners who are focused on water issues in their communities. As the Water Working Group sunsets in 2017, its members are forming an Interest Group — the Water and Planning Network.

The Water and Planning Network was officially launched at the 2017 National Planning Conference, where the work of the Water Working Group, the transition to the Water and Planning Network, and other water-related activities were covered in this session. Contact Anna Read, Senior Program Development and Research Associate, for more information.

Learn More

Additional Resources

Articles