Sustainably Integrated Infrastructure: Synergies between Water Management and Agricultural Practices

By Gundula Proksch.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability


This article has been retracted per the author's request.

With water scarcity and food insecurity growing globally, communities and cities today face urgent infrastructural challenges including: how to supply their residents with fresh water and food. By analyzing existing urban water management and agricultural practices, this study identifies an imbalance between the pressures on cities to secure their fresh water supply and reduce industrial agriculture’s wasteful water use. Considering both fresh water and agricultural systems simultaneously opens new and often unrealized potentials. The integration of urban and peri-urban agriculture as part of low impact water management strategies supports more sustainable urban water cycles in addition to local food production. This study identifies three best practices which synthesize water management and agricultural production. It highlights their benefits, feasibility, and challenges. First, green roof-based rooftop farms combine the benefits of low impact water management and crop production. They are a new form of green infrastructure, which mitigates storm water runoff. Second, closed loop water systems in buildings, including water efficient (hydroponic) growing structures, reduce water consumption and eliminate wastewater. They expand the performance of net-zero buildings. Finally, greywater use for irrigation reduces the load on existing water treatment infrastructure and is an effective water recycling method. Through its two‐fold agenda of establishing low impact urban water management and supporting water efficient, sustainable agricultural methods, the proposed integration of infrastructures has the powerful ability to reconnect the urban environment to its natural water cycle and urban dwellers to their source of food.

Keywords: Urban Agriculture, Low Impact Water Management, Rooftop Farming, Green Infrastructure, Net Zero Building, Water Recycling

Gundula Proksch

Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

She is an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. She teaches advanced graduate studios and seminars with an emphasis on design integration of sustainable systems. Her current research focuses on design with living systems and the integration of urban agricultural practices in the built environment. She is conducting interdisciplinary research on urban agriculture, urban water management, and system integration in collaboration with faculty in the Departments of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Washington.