Multifunctional green infrastructure in arid cities

Sara Meerow, ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Background

We dramatically transform the landscape when building cities, adding large areas of pavement and buildings. These changes contribute to a number of problems that negatively affect people's health and wellbeing, such as air and water pollution, increased runoff when it rains, and more extreme heat. Many cities, including Phoenix, are using green infrastructure - vegetation, soil, and other built elements - to address these problems simultaneously and enhance resilience.

However, many of the benefits of green infrastructure only affect surrounding areas, so location matters. The way green infrastructure is designed also determines its effectiveness.

Research questions

  • What synergies and trade-offs exist in planning multifunctional green infrastructure?

  • How can it be optimized in Phoenix to improve urban resilience?

Partners

  • A partnership with the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, City of Phoenix, Flood Control District of Maricopa County, and Maricopa County Air Quality Department contributing to an ongoing three-year study

  • Mukunth Natarajan and David Krantz, two PhD students in the School of Sustainability

Findings

  • Most studies focus on the stormwater management and water quality benefits of green infrastructure in arid environments, fewer evaluate heat or air quality benefits.

  • Studies show a lot of variation in how different green infrastructure designs perform.

  • It is challenging to find high resolution and quality data for all of Phoenix to use in prioritizing areas for green infrastructure.

Deliverables

  • We need more studies on green infrastructure performance in arid environments.

  • Higher-resolution data on flooding, air and water quality and heat across the city would be useful for green infrastructure planning.