Land Use : Density

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What is population density?

            Population density is the amount of people per square mile. 


How does population density affect environmental quality?

            The population density of a region is directly correlated to the density of infrastructure.   More people mean more needs to be met.  The resulting infrastructure to provide basic services can either be sustainable or unsustainable. 

High density can indicate a thriving urban core and cluster development, which in turn enables better public transit systems, conservation of land outside urban regions, and protection of agricultural land.    

            Low-density can indicate sprawled development, which signifies the destruction of habitat, pristine environments, and agricultural land. Sprawl also equates with increased usage of vehicles and farther distances for sewer, water, and waste facilities to reach.  The expansion of sewer, water, and waste pipes and facilities involves destroying habitat to install them and increased energy consumption due to the distance pumped.      


How does population density affect sustainability?   

In general, a higher density is a stronger indicator for sustainability.  Low density is an indicator of a sparsely populated area.  This low density over a vast area can represent sprawled development, which is not sustainable.  However, this is not implying that low density is always negative.  Low density small towns, rural, or agricultural communities can be efficient, productive areas.  Thus, knowledge of the community is important when categorizing the type of low density area present and determining whether it is sustainable.    


How does population density interconnect with other indicators?    

Population density is a vital reference indicator as it provides a context for the amount of people in an area relying on the resources for basic needs and business for jobs.  It is also correlated with the tax base of a region, which affects the amount of money available for the development of infrastructure.  An increase in financial resources affects transportation as there is more money available to develop public transit, if the need and public desire are there.  Essentially it is a reference for every aspect of sustainability—human health, economic vitality, environmental quality, and social justice.  For reference, population density is also described and included in the human health tree to examine in consideration of communicable diseases.


Next step?       

Analyze the population density data.  Then proceed to examine transportation. 


Population Density Data





Author: Elisa Mayes