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Muddying the waters: what urban waterways reveal about bluespaces and wellbeing

Pitt, Hannah ORCID: 2018. Muddying the waters: what urban waterways reveal about bluespaces and wellbeing. Geoforum 92 , pp. 161-170. 10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.04.014

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This paper urges geographies of waterscapes beyond the blue to consider brown, grey and green waters, demonstrating the value of remembering water is not everywhere always the same. Inland urban waterways are introduced as places which might enhance wellbeing, broadening the variety of places and experiences considered as therapeutic bluespaces. This challenges assumptions that bluespaces are strongly salutogenic, and highlights the importance of a relational perspective. The relationship between bluespaces and wellbeing is revealed as less straightforward than previously suggested, muddying the waters. Qualitative research including participants not currently using them for health raises questions about waterscapes' enabling potential and demonstrates varied ways people experience them. Qualities associated with blueness - freshness, fluidity, luminescence, rippling - seem particularly therapeutic, but are not inherent to water, nor its only properties. Rather than assuming water is always everywhere the same, I propose the term wateriness helps attend to what is distinct about places with water, whilst recognising this varies across space, time and through interaction with other materials. Through such attention this study highlights elements of wateriness which can be highly disabling, including submersion, slipperiness and wetness. Considering urban waterways as potentially therapeutic bluespaces highlights the need to acknowledge the diversity, ambiguity and complexity of water experiences in relation to wellbeing. Waterways therefore takes geographers beyond the blue to consider a wider palette of water experiences and variations in their enabling potential. They are emblematic of waterscapes more brown than blue, offering deep waters for human geographers to wade into.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Additional Information: Released with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License (CC BY-NC-ND)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0016-7185
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 April 2018
Date of Acceptance: 20 April 2018
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 04:20

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