Urban Rivers

Leaders: Rachel Gabor, Maria Manta Conroy



The story of human civilization is the story of rivers. Our earliest cities were built along the Tigris and Euphrates, the Nile, the Ganges, the Yellow, and the Huaura. Many modern cities are known for the rivers they straddle – London and the Thames, Paris and Seine, Washington DC and the Potomac, Beijing and the Yangtze, Cairo and the Nile. Rivers provide water for drinking and irrigation, transportation for goods and people, energy to turn mills or generate electricity, and a way to carry away waste. They also provide sites for recreation or refuges of cooler temperatures during heat waves.

Just as rivers have shaped our cities, cities have shaped our rivers. Urban landscapes alter the physical, chemical, and biological functioning of rivers in many inter-connected ways. Channelization and impervious pavement change the shape and hydrology of rivers. Road salts, fertilizers and sewage alter the water chemistry. Changes to riparian plants, introduction of invasive species, and habitat alterations further alter river biota.

Urban riverscapes are a tightly-coupled human-natural system and the management of them through a time of urban growth and changing climate is a wicked problem requiring a wide range of expertise, from historians to hydrologists, economists to engineers, and planners to policy-makers.

This group seeks to understand the interactions between the natural and built system in urban riverscapes, and how cities can plan for a sustainable future as they grow and their rivers respond to a changing climate.


  1. Develop skills in working within an interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary team to tackle complex problems.

  2. Hold a workshop, ideally at the end of the Spring 2022 semester, with the group members and the local community (including groups such as Blueprint Columbus, MORPC, and FLOW) to identify some of the biggest questions facing river management in central Ohio.

  3. Based on results from 1 and 2, develop an interdisciplinary proposal focusing on urban rivers in central Ohio.


For more information or to get involved, contact Rachel Gabor: Gabor.40@osu.edu

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