The Future of Wanaka

Since moving to Wanaka last year, we’ve spent time getting to know our neighbours, getting involved in local community groups and activities and attending meetings called to discuss local issues. We see Wanaka as our home for the next 20 plus years (hopefully!) and so we have a vested interest in its future.

We are keen to see that Wanaka’s future is as good as we all want it to be – for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren.

In our many conversations with fellow Wanaka residents over the past 18 months, it’s become abundantly clear that there are some serious concerns about what’s happening now in Wanaka and how that will affect the town’s future.

 Those concerns can be summarised as follows:

1.       Wanaka is being developed at a rapid rate and people don’t want it to wind up like Queenstown – where residential and commercial property development have driven the economy but haven’t in the past been managed properly, that is to say they haven’t been balanced by an equal emphasis on planned infrastructure, eg affordable housing, roads, public transport, water and sewage services, health services, environmental planning, community centres, cycleways, shops etc to support the population growth.

2.       We like Wanaka because it has a sense of community, and communities exist and thrive where people and their social well-being and connectedness are valued and factored into town planning. Without that social planning there’s the risk Wanaka will become a stratified town with very rich people investing here and a compromised quality of life for everyone else that lives here.

3.   Queenstown now faces severe housing issues, transport congestion as well as essential services upgrade issues and costs because these were neglected during the development bonanza. As QLDC ratepayers we don’t want to see our rates hiked up astronomically in the future to pay for inadequate town and social planning for Wanaka now

4.       Growth and development are both necessary and inevitable. No-one we’ve spoken with is opposed to development, what they are opposed to is development that suits the developers but not the wider community. People don’t want short term gains to eclipse longer term planning and community development. People are worried about how fast things are changing and how much development is on the boards.

5.       If no more planning permissions were to be granted beyond what’s currently permitted – Wanaka’s population will double in the next few years and in fact the projected expansion for Wanaka is 5-8 times its current population within 20-30 years. By any standards that is a major expansion. Imagine if Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington’s populations were expected to grow by that amount over the same period. And yet, there isn’t a sufficiently comprehensive and concrete plan to manage that growth and ensure that infrastructure and facilities are in place to handle the population and its needs. 

6.       These concerns are also expressed by the business sector. Increasingly, Wanaka is experiencing the problems plaguing businesses in Queenstown: namely there is no affordable housing for their employees or potential employees. Their fear is that they won’t be able to grow or develop their businesses because they won’t have access to a workforce. People needed to staff hospitality, construction, retail businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups can’t afford to live here. Already there is a dire shortage of affordable accommodation – either to buy or to rent – so we have people either moving elsewhere or living in camping grounds, in over-crowded flats, hot-bedding or in cars. That is an unsustainable situation for Wanaka as it is – let alone for a town that is expected to grow to five times its current population by 2040.

7.       The business sector also needs well-planned infrastructure, roads and public transport, community development and facilities because these all affect how they can operate and who they can attract to live here. The needs and concerns of the business sector are sufficiently great that they are voicing them publicly. 

8.       Tourism is another hot topic. People here welcome tourists, and obviously, tourism is a vital contributor to the town’s economy. But there is a sense that Wanaka has reached capacity in its ability to accommodate and cater to the significantly increased numbers. We’re seeing that reflected in campervans parked along the lakefront, motel accommodation full, carparks over capacity at the local popular beauty spots, toilets overused or simply not there, rubbish bins overflowing, human waste around popular beauty spots and trails.

9.       As several South Island mayors, including Jim Boult have expressed, the growth of tourism has exceeded the often quite small communities’ ability to cater for the increased influx of visitors and the ratepayers’ ability to fund the facilities needed. There is equally concern about managing the environment that is impacted by large visitor numbers. This is compounded by the fact that the Department of Conservation does not seem to have the resources to step in and put facilities in place.

10.   Tourism is a nationally significant industry and we need strong and committed leadership to ensure the industry expands in a managed and sustainable way that does not result in New Zealand towns, lakes, rivers, National Parks, beauty spots and countryside damaged irreparably in the process. The recent announcement by the government that it is allocating $178 million to boost tourism infrastructure at the regional level is welcome – but is it enough? How will it help support places like Wanaka and Queenstown beyond the immediate 4 years?

11.   Many people cannot understand why there is government opposition to a tourism or bed tax- it’s commonly applied in other countries – at least eleven European countries impose a modest visitor tax of between 1.5 – 4 Euros per night while visitors in the United States are required to pay city and state taxes on top of their normal accommodation, car rental or admission fees. Such a levy would assist New Zealand communities cater for tourism on a long-term basis.

12.   There is a view amongst people in Wanaka that we are giving away for free what people would be willing to pay for and that if you give something for free, people will simply take advantage of what’s on offer, or worse, treat it with disrespect, eg: the abuse of freedom camping by campervans that are not equipped with toilets and water. The example of a tourist brushing their teeth and washing in Lake Wanaka recently says it all.

13.   As anyone who’s worked in business or advertising knows, it takes a long time to create a valuable brand but you can destroy that brand in a very short time – even more so in these days of social media. We can’t afford to destroy New Zealand or its brand for short term gain. And we absolutely do not want to destroy Wanaka.

So, here is some research I’ve done looking around the world to see what other towns,  cities and organisations have done to anticipate and manage community growth and development, starting with the World Health Organisation.

World Health Organization (WHO) has identified eight domains of livability as influencing the health and quality of life of older adults.


  1. Outdoor spaces and buildings
  2. Transportation
  3. Housing
  4. Social participation
  5. Respect and social inclusion
  6. Civic participation and employment
  7. Communication and information
  8. Community support and health services

Based on my research I have identified two areas that require serious thought and planning


  1. Demographics/social infrastructure
  2. Transport/water/sewage/environmental infrastructure



What demographic is QLDC planning for with Wanaka’s growth?

Is it planning for a community of 8-80 year olds?

Given the ageing population and the number of retirees moving to Wanaka, how is that factored into future planning?

Has it for example looked at the WHO recommendations for planning for an ageing community?

Does the planning cater for mixed communities of elderly, families with children, working couples?

Does it include the need for pre-schools, medical facilities, ease of access by elderly and children to public amenities?

Does it plan for community/village style amenities like cafés, small shops, dairies, parks, benches?

Does it include multi-transport options?

What thought is being given to the need for public transport in a town for 30-50,000?

Does it include cycleways within new suburbs/developments and the need to link those to the town centre and to existing cycleways around the lake and Clutha river?

Does it include bicycle parking and pump stations?

Does it include walkways to link new developments/suburbs with the rest of the town?

Does it factor in the need for pathways wide enough to accommodate mobility scooters used by the elderly to get around?

Does it factor in the need for more pedestrian and cycle crossings?

Does it factor in the need for public places for people to go and meet – both the elderly and parents with children?

Does it factor in the need for more playgrounds and public toilets?

Does it allow for creating streetscapes that are aesthetically pleasing and fit with the current appeal of Wanaka as an open, beautifully treed town with plenty of green space?

What plans are there to create affordable housing for employees and young families?

How are we going to get away from being a development driven town where the majority of houses are empty most of the year? That doesn’t create a sustainable future for a town of 30-50,000 people. And it certainly doesn’t create a community. We don’t need more holiday home/investment home suburbs that are not connected socially/physically to the town centre.

What kinds of industries/occupations other than tourism, adventure and hospitality do we want to see in Wanaka?

Could we become a hi-tech centre? An entrepreneurial centre? A science research centre? We could – and to do that we need to think about how we encourage those kinds of people to come here and ask what they will need, what housing they will want, what interests they will have, what kind of town they will want to live in?



Does future planning for Wanaka have a plan for avoiding traffic bottle necks, eg paving and widening Ballantyne Road, traffic slowing devices, creating pedestrian malls?

How will traffic around Three Parks be managed?

What are the plans to avoid Queenstown type congestion?

What are the plans for avoiding contamination of Lake Wanaka by storm water and runoff from development?

Where is it currently intended that this storm water will discharge –  from a town that is expected to double in size now and grow by up to eight times by 2050?

If it’s planned to discharge into the lake – has it been estimated how much discharge there will be – where it will discharge and what effect that will have on Lake Wanaka water quality

Will it impact on swimmability?  (Dunedin for example notifies the public that it’s not safe to swim in the ocean at city beaches after heavy rain which carries contaminants from streets and rooves via storm water into the sea).

Will it impact on aquatic life?

For a town that will reach a population of 30-50,000 people by 2050, we should be looking at recycling storm water rather than dumping it in the lake. There are good technologies available now to do that – and use the water for other purposes.

(From Wastewater to Drinking Water:

The same with sewage – how will QLDC treat and process sewage from 30-50,000 people? Where will that happen, where will it go? Planning for this kind of infrastructure needs to futureproof the projected growth of Wanaka and the region.

We do not want, and as residents of future Wanaka cannot afford to be paying for expensive fix-ups in 15-20 years’ time.

What is the QLDC doing to encourage and plan for the switch to electric vehicles, driverless vehicles and solar energy? We are on the cusp of dramatic changes in energy sources and usage which has already started and is expected to ramp up over the next five years. How is the QLDC  factoring that into their town planning for Wanaka? (see Tony Seba’s Keynote presentation at the Swedbank Nordic Energy Summit in Oslo, Norway, March 17th on disruptive forces in energy use:

Or for a more conservative take, Bloomberg’s:

Wanaka (and the Lakes district) is projected to be among the fastest growing regions in New Zealand, if not the fastest, certainly the greatest in exponential terms. Planning for that growth is critical to what kind of town we will be living in and with that kind of rapid growth we absolutely cannot extrapolate from the past. We have to imagine and plan for a town that will be liveable for everyone in ten/twenty/thirty years’ time.  We have to involve people in the community in the planning process, we need a bottom up as well as a top down planning process. It is critical that we avoid the mistakes of the past and have the wisdom, courage and imagination to make Wanaka a “smart town” in the contemporary sense of applying a holistic approach to how it grows and to the kinds of people and lifestyle it supports.



Urban development and community development

Economics of Urban Development


The driving philosophy behind the Resource Management Act has been commonly interpreted as requiring planners to take an “effects based” approach to planning. Minimising actual or potential adverse effects, either by design or mitigation, has meant that environmental impacts are typically elevated above other important considerations. This is despite the fact that enabling people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural wellbeing has equal if not greater weight than consideration of environmental effects under the purpose of the Act. Development and the economics which underpin its success or failure (including wealth creation and community development) is a consideration which has typically been given limited attention and misunderstood by the planning process. Yet such factors are critical in underpinning the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of society. The research and understanding of the inter-relationship between planning and economics of development has become more important for Councils. In particular, the recently released National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity has identified economics of development as an issue of national significance.

Where economic development tends to benefit the general citizenry for the most part, the city as a whole, through increased business activity, tax revenue, and amelioration of blight across the city, community development projects tend to target improvements within a specific geography for the benefit of those living in that territory. This is a generalization, of course, but the effectiveness and sustainability of an urban intervention is dependent on how well the people of that place engage in the process.

To that end, an approach which engages citizens where they live and incentivizes them to utilize their own assets to instigate change is more likely to produce sustainable change (see Polis Institute). Access to help from outside the community is crucial and likely includes programs meant for economic development. But more importantly, community development assistance must include the facilitation of building complete communities: strengthening culture, interaction, exchange, and physical identity. These qualities distinguish the process of community development from that of economic development in that there is direct engagement with people where they live for the purpose of creating a more functional society. Attracting jobs, increasing commerce, and spawning renovations to the physical form of our cities through economic development is necessary, but how effective will those improvements be without community development?


Urban Planning Model City

The Stockholm of today is an urban planner’s dream city for its many town planning superlatives, including its walkability and clean air, water clean enough that people can fish and dive in the city center, an efficient, rail-based public transit system, and its preservation of the many beautiful buildings and family friendly parks, many of which are well-stocked with sandboxes, jungle gyms, swings, and slides. Its densest neighborhoods can be traversed via quiet paths between apartment blocks or through charming streets brimming with coffee shops, fine dining, shops, and entertainment.  Its nature reserves feature communities of tiny Swedish garden houses and rocky hilltops with commanding city views.  The city’s many bike lanes are predominately grade separated and located between sidewalks and parked cars, with margins so that opening passenger doors don’t fly into the paths of oncoming bicyclists. These and many other tangible and intangible urban planning assets set the bar high for other cities to emulate and assure Stockholm’s place as an urban planning model city.


Making Our Communities More Liveable: Examples from Germany and Scandinavia

An increasing number of community policy makers, planners and residents around the world want their communities —neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities— to be more liveable. Liveable communities provide residents with opportunities to enjoy a high quality of life by preserving or improving the quality of their environment, enabling them to live in a variety of housing options, and by making it possible for them to walk, bike or take public transportation to go to the places they most frequently need to go every day, such as work, schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, parks, recreational areas and health facilities.


Green transport infrastructure: a key factor for making our communities more liveable  

Green, multimodal mobility systems and networks are perhaps the most visible and common innovations in community planning and development in Germany and Scandinavia. They include integrated  networks of public transit by road, rail and water; dedicated pedestrian lanes, paths and networks; and plenty of bicycle infrastructure —featuring dedicated bicycle lanes, paths and  networks, and highways, with strategically located bicycle parking areas and pump stations— all of which makes it possible for residents to go to the places they need or want to go, quickly, conveniently, safely, comfortably and economically, and without having to drive their private cars at all times. They also make it possible for residents to have increased opportunities for exercising —and therefore, staying physically and mentally active and fit—  socializing, and more particularly, breathing fresher air than residents living in communities where the use of the private automobile prevails.



And more good surprises developed along my walking tour. For instance, a local resident told me that the Harbour’s renewable energy was generated from natural sources, such as the sun, water and wind, and from biogas produced from food waste. When we were standing by the Turning Torso building — Malmö’s famous landmark building combining residential and office space— the same resident pointed out to it and said: “the apartments in this building are fitted with a mechanical system in their kitchen sinks which blends the food waste and then it carries it to a central container —instead of disposing it into the sewer system— and from this container, the food waste is taken to a plant to be processed into biogas.”

At the end of the day, I concluded that the range of sustainable development practices in the Western Harbour reflected Malmö’s growing importance as an international centre of knowledge and its good effort to present itself as an international model for sustainability; that Malmö’s leadership in sustainable development was further enhanced through a number of initiatives of the City. For instance: it invests in centres of learning on urban sustainability, such as the Institute for Sustainable Urban Development  —a joint venture with Malmö University— which allow for the transfer of knowledge between researchers and practitioners; it offers local technical visits on a variety of themes for municipalities and all kinds of organizations and universities interested in finding out about Malmö’s experience in sustainable development; and also hosts high-profile international conferences and exhibitions on sustainability, such as the Eco Procura and Sustainable Week that held in mid September of 2012.

For cyclists, for example, local governments provide excellent bicycle networks and systems, with safe and fast lanes and pathways, and strategically located parking areas and pump stations, all of which, makes it easier, and more convenient and affordable for many people to use their bikes, instead of their cars, to go to the places they need and want to go every day.

So that I could see an example of how much housing in Copenhagen supports cycling, this same Danish woman referred me to “a house” in suburban Copenhagen where residents can bike within it. When I went to visit this house, I realized that it was the world famous 8 House (or 8 Tallet, in Danish), designed by the world-famous Bjarke Ingels Group. “The 8 House” is actually a multi-storey, mixed-use, townhouse and apartment building, with office and retail space and excellent on-site bicycle parking; it is located within a short walking distance from the Ørestad subway station, and features a unique promenade-and-cycling-path that travels through the building while going up all the way to the top floor, thus making it possible for residents “to bike within the house,” just exactly as the Danish woman had told me.

Perception vs. reality

At the end of my study tour, I was still amazed about the numbers of people I had seen biking, walking and taking the public transport in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Oslo and Stockholm. This prompted me to do find out what shares of the populations in these cities would use different modes of transport to go to the places they needed to go on a daily basis.

Most frequently, Copenhageners travel by bike (32%), Osloværings by foot and car (34% and 35% respectively), Stockholmers by public transport (34% ), and Hamburger by car (42%), according to Exhibit 1 below.

And of the populations in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Oslo and Stockholm, 93% of Stockholmers, 68% of Copenhageners, and 57% of each Hamburger and Osloværings either walk, bike or take public transport to go to work, according to Exhibit 2.


Around the world, more and more community policy makers, planners and residents want their communities to be more liveable, that is, more able to provide their residents with increasing opportunities to enjoy a high quality of life.

This article discussed a number of innovations in community planning, development and management, in Germany and Scandinavia; identified many of the underlying principles for the success of these innovations; and showed that communities can be planned, designed, developed and managed so that they can be made increasingly more liveable.

Clearly, the opportunities for communities to explore and implement these types of innovations will increase over the coming years, as residents become increasingly aware of the range of options that are available to increase the quality of life in their communities and of their  potential benefits, and of the actions that are necessary to implement the most promising options.

The next step, therefore, will be for community policy makers, planners and residents to find out —specifically at the local level— what kinds of innovations and actions are necessary to make their communities more liveable and implement them as necessary and possible.



07/11/2013 07:48 am ET | Updated Sep 10, 2013

Creating Livable Communities


By A. Barry Rand



The birth of the baby boom generation brought with it a time of tremendous demographic upheaval in the United States. The nation responded by investing in school construction, teacher education, public health, transportation and housing to make communities more livable. We even virtually invented suburbia as a place to live.

Today, this generation is again leading a demographic revolution. As 10,000 people turn 65 each day, we are quickly approaching a time when the number of people 65 and over will outnumber children 15 and under for the first time in U.S. history. And again, boomers are redefining what it means to make communities livable.

More than 90 percent of the 60-plus population want to stay where they live as they get older and are seeking ways to adapt their current home and community to their needs.

So what makes a community livable? A truly livable community is designed for all ages and not only supports but appeals to residents from the youngest children to the oldest adults. Well-maintained sidewalks and safe crosswalks help older people with limited mobility as well as parents pushing strollers. Transportation options help residents who may no longer drive get to the grocery store and students get to class. Affordable housing helps young professionals live near their jobs and retirees remain in homes they can afford. They also recognize the dangers of isolation and find ways to promote engagement and help people stay connected.

A livable community is one that is as comfortable for an 80-year-old as it is for an 8-year-old. Beyond that, engagement in the larger community is essential to physical and mental health.

While livable communities bring individuals a higher quality of life, they also promote economic growth. People of all ages benefit from having jobs, shopping, health care, recreation and volunteer opportunities closer to home. And communities benefit by becoming more desirable places to live and to visit.

Everyone needs access to housing, transit choices and health care services. But the concept of livable communities goes deeper. Also involved are land-use decisions that emphasize convenience and access. These communities work to keep the environment clean and public spaces safe, green and appealing. They incorporate principles of universal design in home building and renovation (wide-front doorways, zero-step entrances, and easy-to-grasp door handles, for example.). And, they incorporate “Complete Streets” policies that focus on safety and comfort for everyone on the streets including drivers, pedestrians, transit riders and bicyclists.

AARP has worked since its founding to urge transportation options, older driver safety, affordable and accessible housing, community services and long-term support. Making communities more livable requires thoughtful planning. These are AARP priorities. It is a big, long-term job that requires everyone to be involved.

Call to Action

Go to, click on “Tell Us How“ and tell us how your neighborhood, town, or city has improved. Check out our tools for making your community great for all ages, too.

AARP Home » AARP Livable Communities » Livable Communities – … »How to Make Land-Use P…

Livable Communities “5 Questions for …” Interview

How to Make Land-Use Policies Better for Women, Families, Caregivers and Older Adults

So many aspects of daily life could be less time-consuming and less stressful, says urban planning professor Mildred Warner, if our spaces and places were more smartly defined

AARP Livable Communities


Family life and gender roles have changed since the 1950s. Many land-use and zoning policies have not. — Photo from

When Mildred Warner‘s first child was born in 1990, she discovered that her upstate New York community — like many communities both then and now — didn’t have a sufficient supply of affordable, high-quality child care.

“I wondered, ‘How could this happen? How could a critical support for working parents be ignored?'” she recalls.

(AARP Livable Communities eNewsletter)

So a few years later, the Cornell University professor of city and regional planning, and mother of two, began working to help communities nationwide integrate child care into their economic development plans. Warner soon realized that older adults and their caregivers faced similar challenges. Many of the features recommended by experts for how to make communities more livable for senior citizens are important for families with young children as well. — Interview as told to Sally Abrahms

Mildred Warner, PhD

Mildred Warner is a professor of urban planning at Cornell University. — Courtesy photo

“Over the decades, communities have developed with a focus on segregating housing from commercial uses, with attention given to the role of the commuting worker. … Our zoning guidelines have traditionally promoted segregated land use, which can make it difficult for women, their children and seniors to get between home and work and home and school or child care. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

At an AARP session 10 years ago, Warner realized that most elements that make a community a good place for aging in place also make it a good place to raise children. Warner’s Planning Across Generations project helps communities plan for the needs of the aging and the young.

1. What is the connection between age and gender and how communities have developed over the past several decades?

We tend to ignore both age and gender. Over the decades, communities have developed with a focus on segregating housing from commercial uses, with attention given to the role of the commuting worker. There’s been far less focus on the basic needs of everyday life — such as mobility for getting to the store or the doctor, for child care, integrated living and access to services.

This segregation has created special challenges for women but now, with an aging society, also older people. The importance of recognizing these groups is now being acknowledged.

2. How have age and gender been impacted by zoning laws and economic development?

Our zoning guidelines have traditionally promoted segregated land use, making it much more difficult for women, children and seniors to get between home and work and home and school or child care. It doesn’t have to be that way.

New approaches to planning are focusing more on integrating these functions. Beyond allowing child care in residential areas, planners are paying attention to walkability and Complete Streets features. This kind of planning encourages the integration, rather than separation, of activities. It mixes uses and eases access by integrating services — restaurants, grocery stores and doctors’ offices — with nearby residential districts.

Fifteen years ago, when I started working on child care, I discovered there was a blindness in economic policy and practice about it. Child care, like much household work — cleaning, cooking, taking care of family members — may be paid or unpaid. While the work is fundamental to human well-being, it is often ignored in economic planning.

But as people get older and may no longer work in the formal economy, they are still working in the informal “caring economy.” We don’t think, at the community level, about what we can do to support this caring economy. When we start to think about elders, we are thinking about the issues women have always faced.

Zoning that separates where we work, live and shop often places employed parents and adult children caring for their own parents far from where they need to be. — Courtesy A.C. Micklow

3. Now that you’ve raised the need to recognize age and gender, how have the professionals involved in planning and land-use decisions reacted?

They’re really excited about incorporating aging and gender into their plans. They find it liberating to focus not just on the needs of the worker but on all age groups. After all, we all have parents and many of us have kids so we know the challenges.

There’s a really positive turn that is happening right now. Planners are imagining things differently and focusing on a lifecycle approach. Think about it. We are all born. We all need certain things as a small child, teenager, young adult, young family, empty nester, person living alone, older adult. So let’s plan for everyone along that life cycle.

That we are an aging society opens up opportunities for us all to think about what makes a community where you would want to age in place or raise young children. It could be slowing traffic speeds; having benches to rest during a walk; more public restrooms; wider sidewalks; paths for walkers, bicycles and trikes. It would also include a wider array of housing options, economic development policy that incorporates care work and more opportunities for citizen engagement and encouraging intergenerational programming.

4. How is it that out-of-step zoning laws made decades ago for a Leave It to Beaver nuclear family and stay-at-home mom in the suburbs are still in place?

The answer is inertia. The rules get written and we add to them but rarely go back. Familiarity breeds comfort, e.g., “That’s the way things are supposed to be, because that’s the way they have always been.” What we’re asking for is a shift in the way we think a road should be, for instance, so it’s not only just for a car, but perhaps also for an adult walker or child on a bike.

“We are all born. We all need certain things as a small child, teenager, young adult, young family, empty nester, person living alone, older adult. So let’s plan for everyone along that life cycle.”

In some Main Street corridors you couldn’t live on the second floor over a store. The rule against it was part of the fire code. But in larger cities, people do it all the time. If we want walkability in downtown rural communities, we need to allow people to live and populate the second floor. Some rural communities now allow this. The aging tsunami is giving us an opportunity to imagine things differently.

5. What would you advise a community that wants to begin implementing more age-friendly zoning and planning policies?

I’d say they should think about whether their zoning and planning are meeting the needs of current residents rather than historical rules. My guess is that they probably want to allow mixed use commercial and residential development. And what about transportation policy? Is it supporting comprehensive mobility and not just commuting?

There needs to be access for the young, the old and the disabled — not just for the able bodied. We need to plan for all segments of the community.

We also need to think about a less restrictive family definition or eliminating family definitions altogether. Who are we to decide what constitutes a household or a family? Is it really appropriate for planning and zoning to restrict how people live together? In some places there are still restrictions on the books that no more than three unrelated people can live together. But if we want to encourage “Golden Girls” housing, or house sharing, we need to change those codes. We need to think, “Why were these rules put into place, and are they appropriate now?”

— Image courtesy Mildred Warner


Professor Warner is the author of more than 100 articles and reports about community planning, restructuring local government and creating communities for people of all ages, genders and life stages. Here, two samplings from her writing on these topics:

From Not Your Mother’s Suburb: Remaking Communities for a More Diverse Population (with A.C. Micklow)

“The physical design of a community represents a moment in time that is continually reevaluated by subsequent inhabitants. At present, the American suburb is experiencing a demographic transformation with increases in singles, elders, and multi-generational and ethnic households. These demographic changes illustrate the tensions that arise when a space is inhabited by a new set of residents for which it was not originally planned.”

From Collaboration: The Key to Building Communities for All Generations(with Min Koung Choi)

“As America faces the ‘silver tsunami’ of a growing aging population, it also faces a challenge to invest in children. Both groups make special demands on local government for education, housing, and community services. They also require that more careful attention be given to the built environment and transportation systems to ensure accessibility for people of all ages. The needs of children and elders have traditionally been addressed primarily through age-segregated programs. But fiscal constraints require local governments to look for more efficiencies, which may be achieved through integrated programs. In addition, new research points to the positive impacts of intergenerational programming, especially in recreation and social services, to improve outcomes for children and seniors alike.”

Find more at Mildred

Click to access Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf


From Wastewater to Drinking Water

by Renee Cho|April 4, 2011

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Across the globe, 2 out of 10 people do not have access to safe drinking water, and in the U.S., many states face water shortages and droughts. Meanwhile, reports Robert Glennon in Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It, Americans use 24 gallons of water each day to flush their toilets—approximately 5.8 billion gallons. What a waste! As the global population continues to grow and climate change results in more water crises, where will we find enough water to meet our needs?

In the U.S., we spend billions of dollars treating water to drinking water quality when we use only 10% of it for drinking and cooking, then flush most of the rest down the toilet or drain. So the growing use of recycled wastewater for irrigation, landscaping, industry and toilet flushing, is a good way to conserve our fresh water resources. Recycled water is also used to replenish sensitive ecosystems where wildlife, fish and plants are left vulnerable when water is diverted for urban or rural needs. In coastal areas, recycled water helps recharge groundwater aquifers to prevent the intrusion of saltwater, which occurs when groundwater has been over pumped.

Photo credit: notcub

The use of recycled water for drinking, however, is less common, largely because many people are repelled by the thought of water that’s been in our toilets going to our taps. But a few countries like Singapore, Australia and Namibia, and states such as California, Virginia and New Mexico are already drinking recycled water, demonstrating that purified wastewater can be safe and clean, and help ease water shortages.

The term “toilet to tap,” used to drum up opposition to drinking recycled water, is misleading because recycled water that ends up in drinking water undergoes extensive and thorough purification. In addition, it is usually added to groundwater or surface water for further cleansing before being sent to a drinking water supply where it is again treated. In fact, it has been shown to have fewer contaminants than existing treated water supplies.

There are a number of technologies used to recycle water, depending on how pure it needs to be and what it will be used for. Here’s how it’s done at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment plant in San Diego—the city is currently studying the feasibility of recycling water for drinking.

Sewage first goes through advanced primary treatment in which water is separated from large particles, then enters sedimentation tanks where chemicals are used to make primary sludge settle to the bottom and scum rise to the top. Once the water is separated out, 80% of the solids have been removed, and the wastewater is clean enough to be discharged to the ocean. (Though wastewater is a potentially valuable resource, most wastewater produced along our coasts ends up in the ocean.)

In secondary treatment, bacteria are added to the wastewater to ingest organic solids, producing secondary sludge that settles to the bottom.

Tertiary treatment filters the water to remove whatever solids remain, disinfects it with chlorine, and removes the salt. In California, tertiary-treated water is called “recycled water” and can be used for irrigation or industry.

For Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR)—recycled water that eventually becomes drinking water—tertiary-treated water undergoes advanced water technology, then spends time in groundwater or surface water, such as a reservoir, before being sent to drinking water supplies. Advanced water technology first involves microfiltration that strains out any remaining solids. (cont’d)

Singapore’s ‘toilet to tap’ concept

Singapore is one of Asia’s most powerful economies, but it lacks a reliable water supply. Wastewater-reuse plants could change that by soon recycling enough sewage to meet 50 percent of the nation’s water needs.

Singapore is a city of superlatives. The banking Mecca, Asia’s answer to Geneva and Zurich, has the world’s highest concentration of millionaires. The affluent city-state has a booming economy with investments pouring in.

It’s also home to one of the world’s best health- and education systems. And it has an enviable reputation as being one of the world’s cleanest and safest cities. All those factors are reflected in Singapore’s architecture – dazzling skyscrapers and luxurious high-rises dot the island city.

Booming Singapore has everything – except enough water

But the prosperity and economic boom are unable to mask one of Singapore’s most pressing problems: it simply does not have enough water to meet its needs. The city-state has to import several millions of liters of fresh water from neighboring Malaysia via pipelines.

In fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has officially classified the island state as “water poor.” Alternatives are urgently needed.

Diversifying water sources

The water Singapore imports from Malaysia makes up around 30 percent of its total supply. With 2.4 meters of precipitation a year – the global average is only 1 meter – rain is another crucial source of blue gold. Another 30 percent come from the island’s 17 reservoirs. But digging further reservoirs is not feasible because space is at a premium in Singapore – the country is the size of the German city of Hamburg.

“In bigger countries, lakes and rivers provide the fresh water supply, and there’s enough space to collect and store water. But Singapore is so small, it can’t take advantage of those options,” George Madhavan of Public Utility Boards (PUB), Singapore’s water and environmental agency, says. Instead, officials have been forced to find other options. The desalination of sea water is another source of water, but it is cost-intensive and therefore only makes up around 10 percent of Singapore’s water supply.

That led the government to launch a project called “NEWater” back in 2003. It involves recycling wastewater to highly purified water, providing a more cost-efficient and eco-friendly solution.

Wastewater becomes “NEWater”

The concept of recycling wastewater certainly isn’t new, with long-running initiatives already well underway in Israel, Spain, Scandinavian countries and the US. But with NEWater, Singapore has quickly gained an international reputation for efficient recycling of wastewater. The initiative already supplies around one third of the country’s water demand, and that number is expected to grow to more than half by the year 2060.

The first of NEWater’s treatment plants went into operation in 2002

There are now four purification plants across Singapore producing 430 million liters of NEWater a day. The majority of what’s produced is consumed by industry or by big cooling facilities. The rest is combined with nutrient-rich reservoir water, purified again and filled into bottles. (Cont’d)




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