UT Professor, Students Develop Regional Plan on Water Quality Challenges, Future

Assistant Professor Brad Collett and students from the School of Landscape Architecture in UT’s College of Architecture and Design have written and published HydroLIT: Southeast Tennessee Water Quality Playbook, a regional plan and tool kit for water quality challenges and its future. 

The book was launched last week at an event in Chattanooga aimed at empowering the region to protect natural resources. Southeast Tennessee Development, Thrive 2055 Regional Partnership, and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute hosted the event. 

HydroLIT (short for hydrologic literacy) highlights the relationship between the quality of regional water resources—streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater—and urban, suburban, and rural systems. It proposes innovative water quality improvement strategies to guide future planning in the region. 

The book is a result of an 18-month teaching and research project that began in 2015 with Collett’s Tennessee River studio, which was part of the university’s Smart Communities Initiative in collaboration with its 2015­–16 community partner, the Southeast Tennessee Development District (SETD). 

In addition to supporting conversation and decisions about a sustainable future for southeast Tennessee’s water resources, including the Tennessee River, HydroLIT formed the basis of the college’s Tennessee River Studio.

The book includes research from four UT students—Sarah Newton, Lindsey Bradley, Erica Phannamvong, and Kyra Wu. It was designed as a resource for regional stakeholders, including municipalities, agencies, researchers, planners, designers, residents, landowners, and developers. 

“The SETD sought a regional water quality improvement plan, and these students developed a series of strategies that are scalable and adaptable to the range of landscapes typical throughout the region,” said Collett. “By working collaboratively to implement the book’s proposed strategies, SETD can accommodate projected economic and population growth while stewarding the region’s natural treasures and maintaining the high quality of life that makes the region a desirable place to live, work, and play.”

Collett’s studio is a unique teaching, research, and outreach initiative that began with a mission to contemplate speculative visionary proposals that steward the Tennessee Valley’s resources while maintaining its legacy of leadership and innovation. 

The studio is part of the Governor’s Chair for High Performance Energy Practices in Urban Environments (Energy and Urbanism), a unique five-year partnership of UT; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to research innovations and technologies toward a healthy urban future.

“The work we are doing in the Tennessee River Studio has been made possible by the foundation of research, relationships, and ideas cultivated through the development of HydroLIT and other community collaborations,” said Collett.  “Meeting the emergent challenges that face the river and the communities it supports requires best practices, novel ideas, and thinking from a range of allied disciplines, including planning and design. We now seek to leverage those relationships developed through projects like this book as we scale up to the Tennessee River watershed.”

CONTACT:

Amanda F. Johnson (865-974-6401, amandajohnson@utk.edu)

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, tyra.haag@tennessee.edu)