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Urbanisation in the world
Urbanization process is a domain of developing countries. One of the results of the extremely high densities of fast-growing populations is "wild development", leading to such negative social and ecological effects as: [...]
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Water cycle in urban areas
Combined effects of urbanization, industrialization, and population growth greatly modify landscapes and thus the continuous circulation of water within catchments and the Earth's hydrosphere - the hydrological cycle [...]
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Urban Aquatic Habitats
Aquatic habitats are water bodies supporting aquatic life. Increased temperatures of effluents, greater discharges of water, pollutants and waste, and changes in water bodies morphology impact all the basic habitats characteristics. [...]
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Urban Aquatic Habitats Management
A balanced approach addressing the pressing issues in urban environment is not common in the water service sector [...] + more
Ecohydrology for Urban Aquatic Habitats
From the point of view of environmental science, urban environment can be considered as a highly condensed anthropogenic system, which is organised for efficient flow of water, matter, energy and information [...]
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Water cycle in urban areas


Combined effects of urbanization, industrialization, and population growth greatly modify landscapes and thus the continuous circulation of water within catchments and the Earth's hydrosphere - the hydrological cycle.

The hydrological cycle control several processes in the landscape (e.g., transport of pollutants, water chemistry, pattern of nutrient fluxes, erosion, surface and groundwater levels), and thus some of the ecosystems features (e.g., rate of productivity, decomposition) and processes (e.g., rate and pathways of matter circulation). Functioning of ecological processes in the whole catchment depends on the water cycle reflects in the quality of aquatic habitats and ecological stability of their ecosystems. 


The main changes of the physical pathways of the water cycles due to urbanization include:

  • removal of natural vegetation drainage patterns;
  • loss of natural depressions which temporarily store surface water;
  • loss of rainfall absorbing capacity of soil;
  • creation of impervious areas (e.g., rooftops, roads, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways)
  • provision of man-made drainage systems (e.g., storm sewers, channels, detention ponds).

Therefore, although the hydrological cycle consists of the same elements, their proportions in urban area are significantly different:

  • interception of rainfall is reduced due to removal of trees;
  • precipitation is usually higher than in rural areas;
  • evapotranspiration is much lower;
  • surface run-off is much larger;
  • ground-water run-off, infiltration and recharge is small;
  • water storage is much lower;
  • runoff volumes and peak flows in rivers are higher;
  • frequency of surface runoff is increased.

Urban development significantly increases the amount of storm water and the frequency of extreme hydrological events experienced by the City's catchments. The increased runoff causes more intense local flooding, while droughts during dry weather are deeper and longer. 

Runoff amounts typically for 10-20% of the average annual rainfall in rural areas.
In urban areas, where surfaces are highly impervious, typical runoff volumes range between 60-70% of the average annual rainfall.

These changes impact strongly water habitats: increased discharges erodes stream beds and banks, exports high concentrations of pollution into the rivers, wetlands and reservoirs, destabilizes ecological processes, handicap ecological stability of ecosystems. All this not only reduce aesthetic values of the city, but also restrict provision of ecosystem services and causes water-related problems to the urban population, related to flood risk, water supply, drainage, wastewater collection and management.


Cities expansion usually reduce green spaces areas. The satellite pictures show the overall look on two big urban areas: Brasilia and Beijing, and the changes within greens peace areas which accrued during a decade (green colour).

Brasilia, Brazil 1989 and 1999

Beijing, China 1992 and 2001

In some cites however, green space covers larger areas than built and paved spaces. In Vienna, only 32.8% of the city is classified as built-up, whilst green spaces cover 48.8% of the city's surface area when farmland and woodlands on the urban fringe are included. Similarly, two thirds of Oslo's surface area consists of woodlands and farmland. In other cities, the proportionate cover of green spaces can be considerably lower. According to land use statistics, the proportionate cover of green spaces is below 40% in Munich. However, the figures are difficult to compare as the proportionate cover of green space varies depending on how much of the surrounding countryside is incorporated within the municipal boundaries.

Percent of green urban area within the total urbanised area (based on data from: EEA, 2002), www.map21ltd.com/COSTC11/comp.htm

Development of green areas in cities mitigate the negative impact on the hydrological cycle and improve the quality of the environment and quality of life in cities. Increased water retentiveness of catchments improves flood protection, quality of water, environment and aquatic ecosystems. Open water spaces and green areas improves microclimate providing better environment for people, increasing  population health, providing recreational spaces.


Water Resources of the United States

Environmental Scence Publisher for Everybody Round the Earth  http://www.atmosphere.mpg.de/enid/3rx.html

Designe Centre for American Urban Landscape

Greenstructures and Urban Planning