Water is vital for life. It is necessary for drinking and sanitation, sustaining livestock and crops, and nurturing the ecosystems on which human life depends on for survival.
In the U.S., most of the infrastructure that detains, treats and delivers water was built before critical stormwater management regulations were enacted. This has resulted in an estimated 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater runoff entering our county’s waterways each year, infecting our environment and drinking water supplies with pollutants like sediment, trash, motor oil, road salt, lawn fertilizers, pet waste and more.
Upgrading the infrastructure to better manage harmful stormwater runoff would be a timely and costly capital investment for most cities to undertake. Instead, blending traditional infrastructure systems with sustainable, green infrastructure design would be a financially and environmentally responsible way to mitigate issues and protect our freshwater sources.
Green infrastructure focuses on managing stormwater on-site by harvesting and soaking up the water with porous natural surfaces.
“There’s a matrix of choices for green infrastructure,” explained Jim Basile, P.E., Senior Civil Engineer at CPL. “Depending on the site, solutions may include rain gardens, pervious and reduced areas of pavement, bioretention gardens and landscaping, grass-covered roofs, or rain and water tank harvesting.”
According to Basile, the chosen solution must adhere to state-level regulations and permitting requirements, and we look at each site independently to keep the client’s budgets and space limitations in mind.
Over the last few years, green infrastructure has become integral to sustainably managing stormwater systems, especially with climate change increasing the frequency of destructive flooding incidents.
“The intensity of extreme weather events has made this a really pressing problem,” said Dick Waite, RLA, LEED AP, SITES AP, Landscape Architect at CPL. “It’s becoming more important for us to put sustainable solutions in place to help stormwater systems better handle increased volumes of runoff.”
In addition to managing stormwater more efficiently, green infrastructure also offers several benefits such as urban beautification and improved efficacy of street operations in parking lots and roadways.
“We’re seeing a new trend with leveraging sustainable stormwater management elements to serve communities and the environment in other impactful ways,” explained Waite. “For example, you could design a bioretention area to serve as a visually appealing butterfly or pollinator garden to help protect native insects and plant species.”
With green infrastructure, our team can thoughtfully design solutions that offer powerful benefits for neighborhoods, including reduced flooding, improved biodiversity, increased pollination, and enhanced aquatic biome protection. Above all, green infrastructure helps reduce harmful stormwater runoff, which better protects our environment and preserves resources for future generations.
“For something as critical as water, the positive impacts that come with green infrastructure cannot be overlooked,” said Basile.