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Houston park doubles as flood protection

Houston's new Buffalo Bayou Park absorbed and rerouted excess water during heavy rains and flooding in May. (Silvio Ligutti/

When Houston flooded in May, the city’s new Buffalo Bayou Park absorbed and rerouted excess water without a hitch. Erica Gies reports for Ensia that the park is part of Bayou Greenways, a citywide effort to retrofit Houston to weather the shocks of climate change.

Houston exemplifies a global trend in which flood-prone cities are investing more heavily in water management, the article says. Examples include London’s Docklands redevelopment project and Essen, Germany’s transformation of dormant coal mines into green space. Qunli is among several Chinese cities to add lush parks that double as stormwater “sponges.” Melbourne, featured earlier this year in Citiscope, has added wetlands and community gardens to reduce dependency on dams and desalination.

The Houston floods were a “predictable disaster,” Gies writes. Urban sprawl and the paving of floodplains and prairies cause stormwater runoff to overflow into streets and neighborhoods. Houston is fighting back by reclaiming natural waterways and adding vegetation to industrial sites. The goal is to absorb more water where it falls.

Ensia is an online magazine published by the University of Minnesota. 


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