First Advisor

Olyssa Starry

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Social Science and University Honors


Liberal Studies


Infrastructure (Economics) -- Social aspects, Infrastructure (Economics) -- Environmental aspects, Metropolitan areas -- Environmental aspects, Sustainable development, Water resources development -- Planning, Municipal water supply -- Management, Quality of life




The design of urban infrastructure has emerging, documented impacts on the environment, local economy, and public well-being, yet conventional design and policy goals fail to account for these emergent properties. These impacts also lack consistent quantifiable metrics and classification in the realm of city planning. Without adequately holistic cost-benefit analyses, the true value of infrastructure projects fails to be ascertained, preventing consideration of design that provides additional benefits not yet incorporated into city policy and metrics. With more people living in cities than ever before, the built environment of cities has become an increasingly important area of study, and the creation and replacement of aging infrastructure presents an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and rethink best practices.

Does urban water infrastructure stand to benefit, in design and paradigm advancement, from more holistic economic assessment that incorporates the financial value of potential human well-being benefits? This paper explores the motivational and physical evolution of urban water infrastructure, including advancements in ecologically conscious, low-impact designs, and how the value of projects has largely been based on narrow metrics of measurable engineering utility, like quantification of reduced storm water flows. One missing evaluative consideration, human well-being, is then discussed, including its development and quantification in urban areas. Stream daylighting, a relatively new and difficult to classify storm-water management design, is explored as an example of promising new practices that would benefit from holistic cost-benefit analyses, and that cities may forgo when emergent properties are absent from metrics equating value. This paper argues that incorporating the economic value of human well-being when assessing the cost and benefit of water management infrastructure stands to substantiate more sustainable and innovative designs, opening urban water infrastructure to further evolution that may better serve the populace and ecology for which it is designed.


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