Liquid Planning Detroit

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Detroit’s aging combined wastewater infrastructure lacks the capacity to safely manage overflows during wet weather, resulting in untreated sewage being released into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers. However, abundant vacant land presents an opportunity to manage stormwater on-site, limiting the volume entering the system. “Liquid Planning Detroit” posits that by altering design and construction practices, stormwater runoff can be kept on-site and reverse the negative impact of infrastructure failure in water quality and urban experience.

Water Theme

Funding Sources

$40,000 from the Graham Sustainability Institute University of Michigan

Data Driven Detroit (D3), as part of the Detroit Sustainability Indicators Project

About the Project

Despite massive investments in increasing grey infrastructure capacity, Detroit’s aging wastewater infrastructure is still overwhelmed in typical rainstorms, as the metropolitan area’s extensive impervious surfaces rush large volumes of stormwater run-off into the old sewage system.

However, the city’s abundance of vacant land presents an opportunity to capture and hold more stormwater on-site, limiting the volume of water entering into the wastewater system.

 

“Liquid Planning Detroit” posits that by altering design and construction practices, stormwater runoff can be kept on-site and, therefore, reverse combined infrastructure failure and its negative impact on water quality and urban experience. Together with a large database and systematic mapping of Detroit’s condition, the project includes a series of design speculations that reclaim the civic value of the re-naturalized landscapes and a discussion of the public legibility of these design interventions. Alternatively, as collective attitudes toward urbanized watersheds evolve, the opportunity to analyze and visualize infrastructure as a complex system enables projective thinking that bridges green with grey, crossing both scale and time.

 

Following a prototypical approach, the designs propose a new system of spatial and material urban watersheds as key opportunities to guide environmental and cultural synthesis. Within current debates concerning the surplus of vacant land and the right-sizing of urban infrastructures, this approach activates the ground, reintroduces natural processes to the city, offers novel models of infrastructure governance, and instigates opportunities for targeted civic engagement. In doing so, Liquid Planning Detroit fosters the imaginative capacity of visions for Detroit’s future.

 

The research focuses on two prototypical conditions that could be replicated and scaled: (1) the Line represents the conditions of linearity and continuity associated with former rail line conduits, and (2) the Moor represents a patch system characteristic of a traditional Detroit residential neighborhood with high rates of vacancy.

 

In the Dequindre Cut, the “Line,” a series of sectional studies break the boundary of the rail line corridor and use vacant territories to construct a civic infrastructure that weaves water and public space together. The coupling of infrastructure, ecological systems and public space is imperative yet distinct from the monumental history of Detroit’s water towers and pump stations. Rather than concentrating investment in singular, heroic public works, the infrastructure of our time is polyfunctional, shape-shifting and distributed. Through this approach, the design generates a model for a new form of multilayered networked connectivity where the urban stormwater metabolism encompasses the articulation of cultural and social agendas.

 

In the “Moor,” a neighborhood of roughly four square miles in the northwest area of Detroit, along the Rouge River, serves as a case study to design for continuity (of stormwater management practices) within a condition of fragmentation (residential fabric with high rates of vacancy). The existing land use shows a majority of low density residential areas, with two main commercial corridors running east to west. Together with the Rouge Riverbed, and the highway trench, a second topographical depression crosses and connects the neighborhood from north to south.

 

“Liquid Planning Detroit” is part of the Detroit Sustainability Indicators Project, an effort by Data Driven Detroit (D3) and The Graham Sustainability Institute to support local decision-making through the increased availability of high-quality data.

Liquid-Planning-Detroit-3.1
Liquid-Planning-Detroit-4.1

Related Projects

Real-Time-Watershed-Control-1
Water Theme

Real-Time Watershed Control

Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Using autonomous sensors and valves to create “smart” stormwater systems to reduce flooding forecasting, and improve water quality.

Learn More
Improving-Water-Quality-1
Water Theme

Improving Water Quality in Ox Creek

Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

Using wireless sensors to monitor water quality and flow conditions and to control drains to Ox Creek in Benton Harbor.

Learn More
Removing-Phosphorus-Discharge-1
Water Theme

Optimizing Phosphorus Removal

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Optimizing phosphorus removal at Detroit’s water treatment facility, to keep it out of lakes and rivers.

Learn More
The-Power-Microorganisms-Treat-Water-1
Water Theme

The Power of Microorganisms to Treat Water

Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Investigating the use of cutting-edge molecular tools that characterize and optimize water quality process performance.

Learn More
Protecting-Public-Health-Improved-Water--Service-1
Health Theme Water Theme

Protecting Public Health with Improved Water Service

Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

Improving Benton Harbor’s aging water system using risk assessment and risk analysis techniques, as well as mobile sensors.

Learn More
Artificial-Intelligence-and-Water-Resource-Recovery-Facilities-1
Water Theme

Artificial Intelligence and Water Resource Recovery Facilities

Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Using big data, data mining, and artificial intelligence to improve performance of the highly advanced Grand Rapids Water Resource Recovery Facilities.

Learn More
Enhancing-Decision-1
Health Theme Social Theme Water Theme

Enhancing Decision Making along the Detroit Riverfront

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Using remote sensing and security camera data to better understand how people are using the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy public spaces.

Learn More
GLWA-Real-Time-1
Infrastructure Theme Water Theme

Southeast Michigan Real-Time Stormwater Control

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Application of real-time sensing and dynamic control on existing wastewater infrastructure to reduce the frequency and volume of Combined Sewer Overflows.

Learn More
Point-Use-Water-Filters-1
Social Theme Water Theme

Point of Use Water Filters: A Grassroots Train-the-Trainer Program

Flint, Michigan, USA

A grassroots train-the-trainer program on how to install, operate and maintain faucet-mounted point-of-use filters to protect for lead in drinking water.

Learn More
Energy Theme Water Theme

Exploring Nutrient-Energy-Water Cycles

Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Brattleboro, Vermont, USA

Installing special toilets and urinals at a University of Michigan building to concentrate urine, sanitize it, and prepare it for re-use as fertilizer.

Learn More