"Wetrofitting" Urban Neighborhoods
August 26, 2014
Until recently, climate change has correlated to polar bears and melting ice caps — heart rending, but safely distant. Yet climate-related extreme weather, combined with urban development, is starting to show its force, as realized by the severe droughts in California and the misery caused to millions of home owners and businesses as a result of urban flooding. With these impacts comes the potential for public mobilization and a renewed focus on the way we plan our towns and cities. But can we channel individual concerns over wet basements and leaky pipes into a broader public participation and advocacy movement?
This July, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) launched Rain Ready (rainready.org), aimed at building an alliance of individuals and communities working together to find solutions to the problems of too much or too little water. Rain Ready is inspired by the growing number of resident actions groups in the Chicago region mobilizing as a result of the impacts of flooding in their area. It seeks to offer a response to their question: "What should we do?" In 2013, CNT launched Wetrofit — the nation's first service for property owners affected by urban flooding, and in 2014, CNT designed and promoted the Urban Flooding Awareness Act, which was passed unanimously by the Illinois General Assembly and requires the State of Illinois to carry out a study on the solutions to urban flooding.
In this program, Harriet Festing of CNT presented an overview of her organization's water-related work and discussed opportunities and challenges for planners as they engage their communities around the topic of urban water management.