GreenCityBlueLake is making it real simple. As a venue for ideas on what is real sustainability and how we can achieve it, we streamlined our beautiful new web site with its Explore-Live-Transform template. Transform is where we amplify and collectively work on the big questions. It’s where we ask you and other stakeholders to share their vision for ‘what is real sustainability?’
Each month, we present a Sustainability Agenda as a topic of discussion. Like the SC 2019 Celebration Points, the idea is to focus on the big goals, identify what's missing and recommend action steps for leadership to a sustainable future. In January 2013—with the Sewer District's stormwater fee going in to effect—we focus on Clean Water. It's your turn—and clean water advocates'—to weigh in on these three questions:
- What does long term sustainability look like?
- How do we get there?
- What can people do to help?
To get started, we asked Chagrin River Watershed Partners director Amy Holtshouse Brennan, what should we focus on to get to sustainability in water?
Here are some of her thoughts on setting big goals and creating a culture that celebrates water.
What does it mean to you to have clean water in the long term, what does that look like?
From the people side of things, when we talk about water, you can’t live without it. You have to have clean drinking water. That has to be of paramount importance in treating all of the water available.
Another thing we don’t talk about a lot is the quantity of water we use. We have a lot here, so we tend to be flip about how much we use and waste in day to day activities.
From a more traditional watershed quality point of view, looking at the health of those resources from the perspective of aquatic organisms, like a brook trout, a fish species that has a narrow set of criteria that is going to be able to survive. So, the integrity of waterways to support those species.
The lakefront, we’re not utilizing it, from the visual tourism and development along the lake. Like Chicago, where everything is oriented to a river or a lake. We have all of those things, too. First, it’s getting people using it. So, for example, on the Chagrin River, we now have a canoe livery. You can canoe around those islands around the mouth. So, actually using it that way. In the Cuyahoga you have the crew community. Nobody is cheerleading for Lake Erie. There are watershed groups for the rivers but there’s no center of gravity for Lake Erie.
One of the big questions is how do people view it now, because none of our development takes us to the water's edge, and if it does, it might be too close to a CSO overflow. You have some cities like Eastlake who are starting to plan that way. Asking, is it promoting active uses, like a walking path from park that gets you to mouth of river and having entertainment and a really good restaurant there.
What big goals can we set for our rivers and the lake to get to true sustainability? And how do we get there?
That they should always be fishable and swimmable. Absolutely, that's the goal of the Clean Water Act. Then, there's a higher likelihood its drinkable.
There needs to be risk management associated with floodplains and streams. Pick a day and the flood records for Cuyahoga are broken; five of them in last decade.
So, one goal would be not allowing people to build in those areas of risk. As those structures become damaged during floods not allowing them to re-build.
We actually have a climate modelling component to a current project , but we won’t be dealing with the climate piece until 2014. What’s really tough in our area when it comes to climate change is it’s not necessarily agreed that it’s going to be negative.
The infrastructure costs of the 25-year (flood) event happening every year; the cost of that can be significant. But, I've only seen one study on it.
Our land use policies. Where we build, how we build, what does that infrastructure look like? We need riparian set back and some level of assurance that they are building in a way that is safe. And how do we retrofit areas already built because unless rebuilding on less than an acre (many townships) don’t have to adopt any stormwater managment. Some cities like Lakewood set it at 8,000 sq. ft.
Is that fine grain enough to deal with the region's flooding and water pollution from so much impervious surface?
We're not capturing the redevelopment, so we can incrementally fix the areas. The only way I’ve been able to have that conversation -- with Solon and Mayfield Heights they are thinking about it from when they have to dig up the road, and that’s a larger more expensive infrastructure issue. So, can you fix the stuff leading to the pipe and take stormwater out of the system?