By Amy Volckens
In September, Shelby Sommer and Amy Volckens presented at the American Planning Association’s first ever Water and Planning Connect conference in Kansas City. The specialty conference was intended to improve collaboration between planners and water professionals – a topic Shelby (a planner) and Amy (a water resources engineer) know something about from working together on a daily basis, in addition to their research and consulting experience in integrated planning.
Two of the recurring themes of the conference were – no surprise – resiliency and One Water. So many of us struggle to define the term resiliency, but these definitions really resonated with the work Brendle Group does: resiliency is a community’s capacity to withstand chronic stressors and acute shocks. Resiliency planning is the process to increase a community’s capacity to do so. Keynote speaker Paul Brown left us with this thought: if we need to be resilient, we have failed at protecting life and property and are left with trying to minimize the damages. As with so much of the work that we do at Brendle Group, resiliency is about addressing global issues through local responses.
In the One Water sessions, we moved beyond the technical definition of One Water considering the whole water cycle to the social ideal of living within natural systems. Stormwater management is the clearest example of livability, with exciting progress being made in green and blue infrastructure solutions and an increased focus on stormwater management features that also function as public amenities. Mary Anne Dickinson from the Alliance for Water Efficiency talked about the Net Blue Toolkit, intended to help communities pursue water-neutral growth. The toolkit has been around for a few years, but the City of Bozeman is on track to become the first city in the U.S. to adopt the ordinances into city code. Brendle Group has been supporting the City of Bozeman in assessing its climate resiliency and vulnerability and is excited to track this development toward water system resiliency.
In all, the conference was 2 days well spent out of the office learning about what others are doing to integrate planning and water. We look forward to next year’s conference!
To read the full research report on Integrating Land Use and Water Resources or use the Coordinated Planning Guide, visit the Water Research Foundation page here.
About the Author – Amy brings more than 14 years of water expertise to Brendle Group, having provided consulting services to a wide variety of federal, state, and local water agencies. Her experience includes using data, models, and software tools to inform management decisions related to water supply, water quality, drought, flood control, interstate compact administration, environmental and recreational flows, and urban water use. As a senior engineer for Brendle Group, Amy contributes to projects that focus on water footprinting and water use and efficiency.
Amy’s roles as a consulting engineer include project management, business development, and technical leadership. Her goals for any project are to make efficient use of readily available data and tools; to address human factors such as risk tolerances and stakeholder objectives; and to ensure that outcomes are sustainable given available staff, time, and financial resources. Water is a scarce and precious resource and, as a Colorado resident, Amy wants to help protect the natural resources from which we all benefit.