Smart Growth and Water Quality

Our land use and the way we live on the land is irrefutably linked to the health of our natural resources – air, water, habitats, and all living creatures. And likewise, the health of our communities, their viability, and sustainability are in turn linked to the health of these very same resources.

The Wisconsin Comprehensive Planning Legislation gives communities the opportunity to plan for the healthy future of their cities, towns and neighborhoods and the long-term protection of our natural, cultural and economic resources not only for themselves, but also future generations. Comprehensive planning recognizes this interrelationship taking both into account as communities plan for growth.

Techniques associated with smart growth that address the problem of sprawl and transportation issues, also have a direct effect on a community’s water quality and water resources. These techniques include:

  • Regional planning
  • Infill development
  • Redevelopment policies
  • Special development districts (e.g., transit oriented development and brownfield redevelopment)
  • Tree and canopy programs
  • Parking policies to reduce the number of spaces needed or the footprint of the lot
  • “Fix It First” infrastructure policies
  • Smart growth street designs
  • Stormwater utilities

EPA publication 231-B-05-002:
Using Smart Growth Techniques as Stormwater Best Management Practices

Additional guidelines for communities to consider regarding their water resources include:

  • Establish community goals for water resources in the watershed
  • Direct development where most appropriate for watershed health
  • Minimize adverse impacts of development on watershed health
  • Promote opportunities for restoration
  • Assess and prevent unintended consequences of federal, state or local decisions affecting watershed health
  • Plan for safe, adequate and affordable water supplies as an integral part of growth
  • Consider the cumulative impacts of growth management decision on the watershed
  • Monitor and evaluate success of initiatives

EPA publication 842-F-02-008:
Growth & Water Resources


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency –

The Center for Watershed Protection —

Smart Growth Network –