Water is an invaluable and finite resource. The built and natural environments cannot exist without it, yet human interaction with water comes with risks. Finding new ways to live with water is among the most urgent priorities in the planning of urban regions across the globe.

Faculty engage in a diverse set of water-driven research initiatives across scales and geographies. We study, for example, how addressing climate change can help communities develop resilience planning strategies; how increasing population growth and water consumption in emerging nations affect sustainable water supplies; and what opportunities exist for innovative water infrastructure systems in urban areas. We develop innovative visualization techniques to convey the complexity and dynamic nature of urban-water interactions. We develop new planning techniques to assess risk, address vulnerability, and gauge the fiscal impacts of shoreline development, and we assess the planning, design, policy, and legal implications in their implementation. Our work also reveals the symbolic dimensions of water, its cultural and phenomenological resonances, and its place in social and environmental advocacy.

These research initiatives compare data from hundreds of cities across the globe while also engaging in sustained regional, watershed and urban level planning in geographies across the Americas, Europe, and Africa. We highlight especially the environmental and equity agendas facing communities within the Great Lakes Basin – our home, and a critical region containing 20% of the global and 80% of the national fresh water supply.

Understanding the important role water will play in the generation of new urbanisms requires collaboration. Our faculty combine quantitative and qualitative methods, we forge partnerships with professional practitioners and local organizations, and we integrate knowledge from the environmental and social sciences with insights from city planning, design, policymaking, and law.