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American Society of Landscape Architects


February 2006 Issue

Thinking Outside the Pipe
Portland points the way to reconnecting citizens with the watersheds they live in.

By Lisa Owens Viani

Thinking Outside the Pipe
City of Portland

How can planners and resource managers trying to protect water quality encourage people to realize that they live in—and affect—a watershed? And how can landscape architects help in that effort?

Many urban dwellers now live in “pipe- sheds” where the natural topography has been so altered that no one even knows what “watershed” means. According to a recent study by the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, less than one percent of Americans understand what a watershed is, less than 14 percent know what “non-point source pollution” means, and only 23 percent know that urban runoff is the top cause of water pollution in this country. These findings bode ill for efforts to restore habitat for fish and other wildlife, especially in urban areas. But some cities—like Portland, Oregon—have begun to take a holistic approach, a watershed approach—to water-quality problems rather than trying to deal with them on a case-by-case—or pollutant-by-pollutant—basis.


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