Smart Growth programs—developing urban areas with a variety of building types and land uses in a concentrated space—are touted for their potential to spur economic development through the creation of more attractive, environmentally sustainable, and walkable communities. One underlying theme is that increased urban density allows people to access a variety of shops, housing options, and recreational areas without having to hop in their cars. The most commonly cited potential benefits of smart growth include improved public health, higher air quality due to reduced vehicle traffic, more efficient use of land, protection of valued natural or open spaces from sprawl, increased property values because of high demand, and often greater community involvement in the development process.
A recent post on the School of Government’s Community and Economic Development blog outlined some examples of Smart Growth programs here in North Carolina, and Glenn Barnes earlier wrote about five ‘tools’ included in the EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. This post examines what I think is a sometimes overlooked benefit of Smart Growth and higher densities: water conservation.