Madison Water Access and Community Gardens: Research and Recommendations
UW-Madison Task Force Members:Savannah Williams, Department of Agricultural Business Management
Anna, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology
Scenario | Abstract | Introduction | Methods | Benefits | Results | Limitations | Conclusions | Citations | Acknowledgements | About the Authors
The City of Madison has been approached by the Gardens Network because of issues with water access in community gardens. Specifically total water bill costs for community gardens in the city are unsustainable and low income participants are disproportionately burdened by these costs. The City of Madison has tasked us with the job of researching how other cities have dealt with water fees in their community gardens, specifically non-water consumption fees that make up about 70% of the Madison water fee. We will look at other communities and their planning process with green infrastructure to have successful community gardens.
The purpose of our research is to help the City of Madison, WI come to a conclusion on how best to deal with the cost of water utilities for community gardeners. We take the time to explain the benefits of urban agriculture from the perspectives of community, food costs, and environment and also the challenges that urban agriculture can present. In order to form some recommendations for the City of Madison, we used previous studies on or related to the topic, searched municipal websites for rules and regulations, and used information from community organizations that have been involved with the urban agriculture movement. We found that there is not a lot of information specifically on the details of water usage policies in other cities, but that is not to say that they are not dealing with the same or similar issues.
In the past, many cities and neighborhoods started community gardens out of necessity. These gardens were set up to provide food for blue collar families and help mitigate poverty during the industrial revolution (Cabral 2017). The United States has a history of promoting community gardens; during war times households were encouraged to provide food for themselves as a patriotic effort, they promoted these so called “victory gardens” (Burgin 2018). Many first lady’s have also made efforts into putting gardens onto the white house lawn. Community gardens have had significant positive effects bringing increased food access and food justice to communities. The goal of these gardens was to allow marginalized people living in poverty the opportunity to grow their own food which often saves them money and improves their health (Broadway 2009). As population increases, urban areas expand and encroach on rural farmland. This is a problem because this farmland is used to feed the ever growing population. This is one of the reasons why urban agriculture, specifically community gardens, are increasing all over the world. But, it is often quite difficult to establish a community garden or urban farm in a city. Citizens often face many barriers not just to start a community garden, but also to keep it successfully running from year to year.
Urban gardeners in the City of Madison,WI are dealing with some barriers to access regarding the high costs of water for garden members. We research this issue in other cities and present the City of Madison with some recommendations regarding water access and water costs so that marginalized communities are no longer excluded from the benefits of urban agriculture.