Slowing Global Warming Through Landscape Architecture

The United Nations  set up a scientific body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to research the international affects of global warming. Their recent report states that temperatures are rising faster than any time in the last 500 years, and predicts that the overall surface temperature could rise as much as four degrees centigrade within the next century.

The main cause of this global warming is due to the increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide due to human activities. As landscapers, there is something we can do to help cut the overall emissions.  Given the effects of climate change (including droughts in some areas and rising sea levels in others)are already being felt in many areas, so landscape architecture-based mitigation strategies are now being implemented in many cities and towns.

 

Urban Planning

In Texas, Dallas landscape designers can work with local city leaders and the Metroplex planning department to design and roll out land based mitigation strategies to reduce emissions through smarter community planning to offer plenty of green space. Green open spaces like parks are critical  to making low-carbon urban living possible and improving the environment at the same time. New developments can also be planned to have a higher density of trees, and also incorporating new ideas such as green rooftops and green balconies.

 

There are other ideas which can be applied along the Texas Interstate Highways, for example conventional grass medians can be replaced with an eco-friendly landscape that is both attractive, and eco-friendly, producing great water savings as well.  On a project such as this, existing turf can be left in place, and sheet mulch added (layers of recycled cardboard, mulch and compost). These layers both improve the quality of soil and help retain its ability to retain moisture. Using sub-surface irrigation with drip emitters will cut water loss due to evaporation in the heat of the summer. Once the sheet mulch and irrigation is laid, local Texan plants can be selected. Local native plants that have developed over generations to require less water are both very attractive and are drought resistant.

 

Residential Design

Not just restricted to city projects, home owners from Richardson to Plano can also play their part in slowing climate change, by implementing xeriscaping in their back yards. Xeros derives from the Greek word dry, and is a system of landscaping that both preserves water and also protects the environment.

drought-resistant-leaves

This is different from zero-scaping which relies on stone, rocks and gravel, but rather relies on plants including native shrubs, flowers, bushes and trees. Generally across North America, approximately half of all residential water use is used for watering lawns, and xeriscaping can reduce watering by as much as 60%. Every square yard of lawn replaced by drought tolerant plants can save up to 400 gallons of water per year.  Converting a lawn does need some design and careful planning, but with low water irrigation, improving the backyard soil quality and the use of mulch, permeable paving for paths and the planting of native shade trees you can have both a beautiful backyard which is environmentally friendly too.

Keeping Our Water Supplies Safe

One of the things that we all take for granted is that we can just turn on a faucet and instantly have clean drinkable water. An apparently simple action, but one which would be greatly appreciated by much of the third world population.

Behind our clean water supply is an enormous environmental undertaking that keeps our water clean and bacteria free. This starts with our state water rivers and reservoirs and continues down the supply chain all the way to every consumer and business premises. In Texas, overall responsibility of the environment lies with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and the rules and regulations concerning water are controlled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Surface Water Quality Standards
The state defines specific targets for water quality standards. These standards are set to make sure the quality of surface waters (streams, rivers, lakes, and bays) is of a good level in Texas so that the water quality both supports public health and enjoyment and also protects aquatic life.
These water quality standards identify appropriate uses for the state’s surface waters, including aquatic life, recreation, and sources of public water supply (or drinking water). The criteria for evaluating support of those uses include dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, dissolved minerals, toxic substances, and bacteria. For more see: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/waterquality/standards/WQ_standards_intro.html

Water Supply BackFlow Protection
In the public water supply system, it is important to stop contamination from entering the public water system. So whenever there is a junction or cross-connect of water pipes at the entrance of a commercial building, a reduced pressure assembly backflow device must be installed to stop fertilizer, insect repellent, or any other chemicals being accidentally injected into a public water system.

The same applies to residential irrigation systems, because often homeowners will spray their yards with pesticides or lawn fertilizer, and if there is a problem in the irrigation system, back siphonage could happen, depositing harmful chemicals in the neighborhood water supply. Backflow protectors at their simplest are a one-way valve which allows water to flow in only one direction.

All commercial and many residential backflow assemblies must be tested annually in order to comply with regulations and to meet city and state codes. For more see: Accuracy Backflow Testing

Water Treatment
To make sure that the water than comes into homes, a surprisingly large number of water processing treatments are applied at water treatment plants. These include disinfection with Chloramines, Fluoridation, filtration, coagulation, sedimentation, PH adjustment and odor control with activated carbon, just to name a few!