Assessing Equitable Access to Urban Green Space: The Role of Engineered Water Infrastructure

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Urban green space and water features provide numerous social, environmental, and economic benefits, yet disparities often exist in their distribution and accessibility. This study examines the link between issues of environmental justice and urban water management to evaluate potential improvements in green space and surface water access through the revitalization of existing engineered water infrastructures, namely stormwater ponds. First, relative access to green space and water features were compared for residents of Tampa, Florida, and an inner-city community of Tampa (East Tampa). Although disparities were not found in overall accessibility between Tampa and East Tampa, inequalities were apparent when quality, diversity, and size of green spaces were considered. East Tampa residents had significantly less access to larger, more desirable spaces and water features. Second, this research explored approaches for improving accessibility to green space and natural water using three integrated stormwater management development scenarios. These scenarios highlighted the ability of enhanced water infrastructures to increase access equality at a variety of spatial scales. Ultimately, the “greening” of gray urban water infrastructures is advocated as a way to address environmental justice issues while also reconnecting residents with issues of urban water management.

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Environmental Science & Technology, v. 45, issue 16, p. 6728‐6734