Cities all over the globe are rethinking, revitalizing and reclaiming their waterways as ecological, recreational, and cultural assets.
Aerial photo of the Los Angeles River, BBC Travel
Over 50% of the global population lives within 1.86 miles of a freshwater body and most cities around the globe are located next to rivers (1). Originally, civilizations likely developed along these waterways for practical reasons like a drinking water source, for agriculture, irrigation, transportation and trade. However, historically, as urban centers grew, many urban rivers around the world were rerouted, channelized, and/or built over, so much so that you might not even realize a river is there! Today, many of these rivers are being returned to their more natural states to better manage flooding and stormwater, to enhance quality of life for people, and to restore ecological health.
Our very own LA River is a waterway that has been channelized to protect life and property after historic floods. Today, the LA River and its watershed is being reimagined by talented people and organizations through various planning efforts, like the LA River Revitalization Master Plan, and pilot projects. Just like here in Los Angeles, cities around the world have considered how to revitalize urban waterways so that they are accessible to the public, create recreational opportunities, enhance water quality, and are restored for wildlife habitat.
This week’s blog post is a compilation of examples of urban waterways around the world. Many of these waterways were once encased in concrete or underground pipes. These projects are utilizing innovative water management practices in their region and can teach us valuable lessons about river revitalization. Below, is the link to a fun, interactive Story Map to help us learn how urban waterways around the world are being reimagined in a way similar to the LA River. It is fun to think that floating wetlands and public swimming pools that filter river water could be possible in our own LA River. We hope these projects and stories inspire Southern Californians to see their waterways in a new light and imagine all the possibilities!
Story Map: Inspiration from Urban Waterways
Around the World
Kummu, M., de Moel, H., Ward, P. J., & Varis, O. (2011). How Close Do We Live to Water? A Global Analysis of Population Distance to Freshwater Bodies. PLoS ONE, 6(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0020578
"A river runs through it: the global movement to ‘daylight’ urban waterways", The Guardian
“Urban Rivers Works To Restore The Chicago River’s Ecosystem,” WBEZ Chicago
“7 Cities Transforming Their Rivers From Blights to Beauties", Wired
"Canoeing Along the Restored Bronx River," NY Curbed
"Story of cities #50: the reclaimed stream bringing life to the heart of Seoul," The Guardian