Today’s temperature is going to be a scorcher in NYC. Around the city it is likely that water will spray from opened fire hydrants as a way for people to cool off. Uncapping fire hydrants is a tradition in some neighborhoods in NYC that don’t have swimming pools close by. But as landscape architect Adrienne Cortez discovered, opening a hydrant is both costly and a huge waste of water. Cortez studied the environmental impact uncapped hydrants pose for a project called nyc : uncapped. Some of the statistics she reveals are pretty staggering. For instance she found that it is estimated that the average person will consume about 7,000 gallons of water in their lifetime. At 1,000 gallons per minute, an open hydrant will have spent the entire lifetime supply of drinking water for two people in just 15 minutes.
Motivated by these discoveries, Cortez worked to develop some short and long term ideas that create better public spaces for urban summertime cooling. One of her proposals called ‘uncapped streets’ dovetails with the city’s tree planting initiative by creating temporary summertime street parks that serve as a nursery for trees to be planted. An overhead watering system irrigates the trees and provides a cooling ‘hydrant’ shower for people.
For longer term solutions, Cortez thinks that harvesting alternative sources of water like rain water from rooftops is the answer. The water could be filtered using plants and stored in existing rooftop water towers. This way there would be no pressure loss on the hydrant system and the water used would essentially cost nothing.