What will the city of Atlanta look like in another 100 years? Is there any way to overcome the city's notorious water problems? Can the city continue to grow and develop, without destroying its natural environment?
A team of urban planners attempted to address these questions recently with their submission to the History Channel's Cities of the Future challenge. With seven days to prepare their designs, and only three hours to build a model, the team (led by EDAW, with partners from Praxis3, BNIM, and Metcalf & Eddy) had to think fast about how to accommodate the next hundred years of development in the city. Recognizing that water issues were the key to any future development vision for the city, the planners, set out to rethink Atlanta's entire water infrastructure.
In the late 1800's, the city of Atlanta built its first sewage and storm water system by walling over existing streams. Over a hundred years later, with the city's water systems falling apart, Atlanta committed itself to building $3.9 billion of underground water infrastructure, including massive tunnels to handle stormwater overflow.
However, in the face of greater fluctuation in the climate and lower rainfall, due to climate change, the team questioned the wisdom of replacing old infrastructure, even with sophisticated technological solutions, and sought a "restorative" approach that would harness nature instead.
The "City in the Forest" plan calls for gradually concentrating development along Atlanta's ridges, thus creating an iconic image for the city, while making it more compact and walkable. Transit-oriented development and higher building densities along the ridges would free up slopes and valleys for natural ecosystems to be restored. Forests, wetlands and rivers would treat stormwater through natural purification processes, saving billions of dollars.
As for the expensive underground tunnels, EDAW proposes using these to store drinking water for use during drought years.
For more on Atlanta's water problems:
Graphic of the Day: Monthly Average Water Levels, Lake Lanier, Atlanta, Georgia
Biggest Single Water User in Atlanta is Gatorade Plant
Atlanta Collar Counties Getting Serious on Water Use
"Radical" Water Saving Measures May Become the Norm in Atlanta
Images courtesy of EDAW.