Restoring the Lost Rivers of Washington: Can a city's hydrologic past inform its future?

Doctoral thesis OPEN
Millay, Curtis A. (2005)
  • Publisher: Virginia Tech
  • Subject: stormwater management | landscape architecture | daylighting | urban design | urban hydrology

Washington, D.C., like many older U.S. cities, suffers the woes of rapid urbanization and aging infrastructure. The cityâ s combined sewer and stormwater system dumps millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers over 70 times annually during significant rain events. While many groups, both public and private, attempt to clean the river, billions of dollars are still necessary over several years to remedy the combined sewer overfl ow (CSO) problem alone. Current plans for a solution include constructing large underground storage tanks that store millions of gallons of wastewater during overflow periods. Washington, however, once had a network of waterways that naturally drained the Federal City. At least three major stream systemsâ the Tiber Creek, James Creek and Slash Runâ and over 30 springs flowed within the boundaries of the emerging capital. The waterways, now buried, were victims of urbanization, and flow now only underground, wreaking havoc on foundations and basements and causing sewer backups and flooding. Can a historically-driven investigation of these buried channels lend credence to the resurrection in some form of a network of surface stormwater channels, separate from the municipal sewage system, to solve the cityâ s sewage overflow crisis? The following study is an initial exploration of the re-establishment of waterways through Washington with the purpose of improving the current storm sewer overflow dilemma and exploring the potential urban amenities that they could provide as part of a stormwater management plan for the year 2110.
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