Focal Areas

Urban Policy and Planning

Increasingly, city governments are facing major costs for maintaining water infrastructure and water quality.

Through a series of interconnected and multidisciplinary working groups, this project will explore new ideas, approaches, and governance models involved in integrating ecosystem services proactively in the urban and regional planning and policy processes, and the potential for this to result in better environmental and social outcomes.

  • The first workshop will explore the foundational question of how much the use of an ecosystem services approach to planning can change outcomes, and which variables drive this potential for improvement (e.g., geography, urban density, climate). 
  • The second workshop will link the science explored in the first workshop to the practical use of this knowledge by exploring how to integrate ecosystem services concepts into the land use planning and development process – what data, what tools, for which planning processes and policy decisions. 
  • The third workshop will consider what governance and institutional structures would help move this process forward, as well as how existing regulations and rules can help or hinder the process. 

Creating a framework to integrate ecosystem services in the planning process brings the possibility for new ideas. This project can explore how to estimate the scale of benefits possible if ecosystem services were maximized within an urban system, and how this threshold will change with climate, physiography and spatial scale. As population increases, is there an optimum balance between green and gray infrastructure? If so, what does that look like? Is there some threshold for diminishing return on investment? How does that relationship change with region and scale? Can this knowledge inform the policy and planning process? What kind of governance structures and regulations can help?

This work is funded through the generous support of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative.