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In human geography, a catchment area is the area and population from which a city or individual service attracts visitors or customers. For example, a school catchment area is the geographic area from which students are eligible to attend a local school. Another application of the concept is that airports can be built and maintained in locations where they would be best utilized by the surrounding population with minimal driving distance. Local governments and community service organizations often define catchment areas or service areas for public safety (e.g., fire and police) and emergency medical services.
Catchment areas are generally founded either on formal local government boundaries or else on some other geographic basis. For example, a neighborhood or district of a city often has several small convenience shops, each with a catchment area of several streets. Supermarkets, on the other hand, have a much lower density, with catchment areas of several neighborhoods (or several villages in rural areas). This principle, similar to the central place theory, makes catchment areas an important area of study for geographers, economists, and urban planners.
A catchment area can refer to the population of the town and thus how likely it is for people to travel to this area.
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