Lots of people know a thing or two about household practices to improve water quality: don't change your car's oil in the driveway; pick up after your pet and dispose of pet waste properly (not tossing down the storm drain), raking lawn clippings and storing for compost.
But what can be done at the neighborhood scale? What can urban designers (and the citizens who ultimately pay them) do to re-make our cities as if our urban rivers really do matter?
Fortunately, the palette of options is growing. Recently, the McKnight Foundation's Environment Program supported the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation in the development of a Water Quality Manual that addressed practices at the scale of site, block, neighborhood, or city. Clear illustrations and accessible descriptions make the possibilities come alive.
I don't know why, but the set of possibilities illustrating what's achievable at the neighborhood level appeal to me the most directly.
Getting the work done, of course, is more challenging, but if you don't know what to ask for, you won't ever achieve it, right?
For more information, download the neighborhoods section of the Water Quality Manual (PDF).