REDRAWING OUR URBAN WATERS: Merging design, law, and policy in advancing distributed water systems

Brook Muller, Adell Amos, Joshua F. Cerra, Chingwen Cheng, David L. Feldman, Tatum Lau, Noelwah R. Netusil, Erik Porse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Decentralized (or distributed) urban water systems managed at the local level can create, especially when created using a multidisciplinary approach, mutually reinforcing benefits for sustainability and equity, including (1) highly integrated systems for wastewater, stormwater, ground and surface water, and drinking water; (2) more resilient systems with greater adaptive capacity; (3) increased levels of ecological responsiveness; (4) more cost-effective and lower footprint infrastructure; (5) engagement with design in infrastructure development; and most importantly (6) promotion of community interests and advancement of equity goals. As demonstrated in specific case examples, urban water systems can be a laboratory for equitable and sustainable approaches when meaningful relationships between multiple disciplines are recognized and actively deployed. These approaches allow designers, communities, and policy makers to bridge the gap between policy and design, create space where the law and regulation can be understood to be proactive problem-solving tools with flexibility and discretion that can unlock creative capacity, challenge the transferability of innovation and the lack of regulatory flexibility, and create contexts where community members and designers are more participatory in infrastructure planning. Decentralized and distributed urban water systems that merge design, law, and policy in recognition of a web of complex interactions, as detailed here, offer pathways to face the unprecedented intersection of climate change, growing inequality and public health emergencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Cities and Landscapes in the Pacific Rim
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781000532494
ISBN (Print)9780367471149
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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