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“Why Should Designers Care About Water?”

Katy Kraszewska

The effects of climate change demand that we rethink our approach to water. Landscape strategies must address rising sea levels, water scarcity, increasingly violent storms, and pollution. We need policies and landscapes that protect our most valuable resource.

Before designing landscapes or advocating for policy change, Designer-in-Residence Katy Kraszewska believes it’s important to step back and ask, why should we care about water?

Katy grew up in Idaho in a large family with seven brothers and sisters. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom and had 4 or 5 gardens,” says Katy. Observing her mother’s love for the land influenced her own views about land and water. Her views have continued to evolve as she has researched the devastating environmental impacts of the bio-oil and agricultural industries on our water systems.

“There are two basic views of water,” Katy explains. “There’s the view that water has value only insofar as it brings value to humans. Then there’s the view that water and the land and all living creatures have intrinsic value, regardless of how they benefit people.”

By exploring how and why we value water, Katy hopes to help people consider the implications of their values. How might policies and practices change if more people saw water as sacred, rather than a resource to be exploited?

Katy’s own view is that water has value, in and of itself, but she recognizes the need to work with people who believe differently. “We may value water for different reasons, but we can often work towards the same goals. I may want clean water because water is in its perfect state when it’s clean, while others may want clean water so they don’t get sick when drinking it. Both reasons are important.”

Understanding why people value water helps Katy to more effectively communicate with others and advocate for change.

I grew up in Idaho. I have seven brothers and sisters. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and she had four or five gardens. My dad was a carpenter. With him being a woodworker and my mom working with plants all the time, I wanted to do something that used both of those things.

When I read about landscape architecture as a profession, it seemed like a combination of both. As I traveled and studied abroad in Italy, I saw what you could do with landscape architecture and the lasting impression that design leaves. I felt that there was a home for me in the field.

Since my background is in water, my question within ethics is how do we deal with water. I’m currently working with a student on how water is sacred and how to re-introduce the idea of sacred in a public realm when we write policy. So, writing a policy for water quality with the idea of water having intrinsic value.

That hasn’t been discussed when the policy is being written because a lot of times only first world countries even have the luxury of discussing water as intrinsic value. Mostly water simply meets the immediate needs of the community. I think if America is leading the world in a lot of discussions, having ethics be a part of that I think is really important.

That’s what’s really interesting to me. Why do we care now? Is it just because of the environment and how we are struggling to cope with the resources that are available to us? Or is there universal law? Has this always mattered and we’re just stumbling across it now?

These are the kind of questions that I want to get to before I even begin a project because that’s the ultimate end goal: the question of why? Why do we even care? Why does it matter?

Is it just because the agriculture community serves man and man needs to have these resources to survive for man’s good and man’s future generations? Or is it because of the value of both? Or is it because the value of each individual party is equal in its intrinsic nature?

I want that to be what inspires my design and my research.