In this design charrette, the objective was to locate and solve a problem within the West Creek watershed. The studio decided to divide the watershed by land use, and my partner and I specifically looked at issues within the industrial area.

We chose a site that was already a part of the West Creek Restoration Project, and saw the opportunity to further their design for a more comprehensive solution.

 A number of issues stood out within this area, and among the largest was the condition of the creek bed, the high amounts of runoff due to impervious surfaces [warehouse roofs and vast parking lots], and the speed at which water rushed across the site without natural filtration, picking up pollutants and delivering them directly into the Cuyahoga, and resultantly, Lake Erie. 

Our main goals were to slow the water down, and provide it with a more natural path before entering the Cuyahoga River. To do this, we proposed a divergent stream that would be used to handle excess water during times of heavy rain. This would allow water to be slowed down, and also to be filtered naturally before reaching the main river body. We also proposed effective solutions that could be implemented by businesses, such as porous parking lots, and bioretention. We addressed the issue of parking lot runoff feeding directly into the creek by proposing rain gardens at the edges of these lots, providing an area for water to be slowed and stored before entering the creek.

What we found is that there aren't many new ideas when working with water, it is simply knowing and applying concepts that work. This is something that can be done in any project. With knowledge of how to handle water on site, the amount of storm water runoff entering streams, creeks, and tributaries can be greatly reduced. Until now, it seems that the trend has been to get water off the site as quickly as possible, and into a storm sewer to be sent directly to the main water body. However, we are seeing the devastating effects of these practices, and with simple strategies, we must begin to design with water in mind. 
Watershed:  the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. 

John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: "that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water sourse and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."

Water is our world's most precious resource. Being made of almost 80% water, human beings rely on this molecular collection of elements more than any other in the world. Unfortunately, with urbanization and densification, natural watersheds in urban areas are being heavily damaged, and destroyed. Areas that were once natively vegetated, and filtered water naturally and gradually, have been replaced by impervious materials [roads, parking lots, buildings] and mechanized replacements [sewer and storm water drainage systems.] By stripping the land of its natural processes, we fast track the water cycle. What this means is that the rain water that rushes over a polluted industrial park winds up back in the lake, and ultimately in our tap water much much faster, and dirtier, than it ever would have. The effects of urbanization and the disruption of watersheds is not easily reversible, but good design practices can help slow the velocity of destruction which is currently taking place. 

Our studio will be looking at the West Creek Watershed, and will be coming up with design solutions that can help to slow the disruption to natural watersheds. The West Creek Preservation Committee is dedicated to doing just this, and we will be studying some of the projects and techniques they have been employing to help save our most precious resource. 

This committee has put together an excellent resource, the Watershed Action Plan.

On a much smaller scale, The University of Maryland has designed a model project that demonstrates ways that human settlements can be designed to help protect the watershed ecosystem. With designs like this making up the urban fabric of cities, our worlds watersheds could be in much better shape.