Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


In the time of metropolises and rapid urbanization, design is instrumental in facilitating a mutualistic relationship between the built urban environment and the surrounding natural processes. This paper addresses the issue of stormwater runoff and identifies design techniques in urban areas used to mitigate the destructive consequences of urbanization related to precipitation and impermeability. With a focus on New York City, this study uses historical and current rainfall data as well as particular case studies to address successful rainwater collection and stormwater mitigation design implementations. To provide an interdisciplinary approach to combating stormwater runoff, the disciplines of environmental history, economics and politics, and related design techniques are discussed to create a more holistic discussion of this urban issue. Chapter 1 explores the urban environment and the particular ecological issue of impermeability within a city while providing quantitative data regarding rainfall and stormwater runoff. Chapter 2 engages the historical account of rainwater management and collection systems globally and then specifically in NYC. In Chapter 3, the economics and policies surrounding stormwater mitigation and rainwater harvesting will be identified and discussed. In Chapter 4, this paper will identify contemporary design techniques and successful strategies to harness rainwater and reduce the amount of stormwater that enters the sewer systems in New York City. Some landscape and building technologies discussed are designed in a way that integrates the structure into the natural environment by adhering to and imitating nature’s own patterns and design. Chapter 5 navigates the practice of domestic rainwater collection and retention in historical, developing, and more developed civilizations to explore collection techniques and reconsider how the developed world values this natural resource. The last section of this paper offers recommendations to mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff with roof and building designs, as well as dealing with fundamentally changing our perspective and attitude towards rain, our forgotten natural resource.