Urban Water Management in Kingston, NY: Placing Green Infrastructure in Temporal and Spatial Context

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Although urban runoff is a known cause of impairment for waterbodies, questions remain about the effectiveness of best management practices like green infrastructure. In this thesis, I examine water management in Kingston, NY at several temporal and spatial scales. The study focused on green infrastructure practices installed in two municipal parking lots in Kingston, NY, within the Tannery Brook watershed. The research included a quantitative assessment of water level in green infrastructure practices every minute, a qualitative assessment of design and adaptive management in the overall parking lot site over several seasons, and a review of the history of the Tannery Brook watershed over 350 years. Water level was measured with pressure transducer sensors in 10 green infrastructure practices (2 rain gardens, 3 bioretention areas, and 5 dry wells) for 28 storms between May and November, 2017. Maximum water depth and time to drain were calculated; these parameters were selected because of their importance to practice design and runoff reduction. All 10 green infrastructure practices included in the study infiltrated runoff very rapidly. However, design and maintenance decisions may compromise their performance over time. Frequent visual observations provide context for water level data, along with important lessons learned for future installations. Particular issues observed in Kingston’s Uptown municipal parking lots included vehicular and pedestrian transportation flow, sediment and leaf litter that could clog practices, decreasing vegetation due to mowing, and erosion within the practices. These problems could be mitigated with improved design or adaptive management to improve maintenance over time. The Tannery Brook has provided numerous ecosystem services to Kingston over its long history, supporting economic development in different ways. The Tannery Brook provided power to grind grain at Kingston’s first mill, water for various industries (including three tanneries), and waste removal as Kingston constructed sanitary and storm water infrastructure. Portions of the Tannery Brook were eventually buried to reduce flooding. Although the Tannery Brook has largely been fragmented and forgotten, it has not been forgotten by everyone, as it continues to cause damage through infrastructure failure and localized flooding. As Kingston works to adapt to climate change, conserve natural resources, and improve sustainability, it would be worthwhile to reassess how urban streams like the Tannery Brook could support the city’s values today. The arts provide an opportunity to reimagine the form and function an urban stream could take. Two installations, one in a more traditional gallery setting and one participatory site-specific installation, provided space for Kingston residents and stakeholders to discuss what the Tannery Brook meant to them, and what it could be like in the future. Given the rapid infiltration of the green infrastructure practices within the municipal parking lots, additional green infrastructure practices constructed in the neighborhood could help reduce flooding and improve water quality. An innovative, watershed-based approach to water infrastructure could contribute to an improved urban stream system in the future.

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environmental history; urban stream; stormwater management; green infrastructure; Environmental studies


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Walter, Michael Todd

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Davis, Brian R.

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Natural Resources

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M.S., Natural Resources

Degree Level

Master of Science

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dissertation or thesis

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