EPA’s new strategy to encourage cities to use green infrastructure
The EPA wants cities and towns to address a new strategy to improve water quality in the US by reducing stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff pollutes the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, creeks and coastal waters, degrades the aquatic habitats and causes downstream flooding. This new strategy aims at promoting use of green infrastructure for environmental and economic benefits: green infrastructure is a cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally-friendly approach to wet weather management. Using green infrastructure can be useful to mitigate overflows from combined and separate sewers, and to reduce stormwater pollution by encouraging implementation in cities and municipal programs.
How does green infrastructure work?
- It treats rain when it falls, captures and filters pollutants by passing stormwater through soils and retaining it on site.
- Stormwater is reused to maintain or restore natural hydrologies.
- It keeps polluting stormwater from entering sewer systems: by increasing the amount of pervious ground cover, green infrastructure techniques increase stormwater infiltration rates, thereby reducing the volume of runoff entering our combined or separate sewer systems, and ultimately the lakes, rivers, and streams.
Some tools used are green roofs, permeable materials, subsurface infiltration, raingardens and rain harvesting systems for non-potable uses such as toilet flushing and landscape irrigation, porous pavement, infiltration planters, trees and tree boxes.
How does green infrastructure benefit the environment?
Green infrastructure can produce environmental, economic, and human health benefits. The benefits of green infrastructure are particularly accentuated in urban and suburban areas where green space is limited and environmental damage is more extensive. Green infrastructure benefits include:
- A decrease in water pollution by a decrease in stormwater runoff volumes
- It improves Human Health : an increasing number of studies suggest that vegetation and green space (two key components of green infrastructure) can have a positive impact on human health.
- It increases economic activity by creating jobs, and neighborhood revitalization
- It induces energy savings with reductions in heating and cooling costs. For example, green roofs reduce a building’s energy costs by 10 to 15%.
- It preserves and restores natural landscape features (forests, wetlands)
- It enhances groundwater recharge - The natural infiltration capabilities of green infrastructure technologies can improve the rate at which groundwater aquifers are 'recharged' or replenished. This is significant because groundwater provides about 40% of the water needed to maintain normal base flow rates in our rivers and streams. Enhanced groundwater recharge can also boost the supply of drinking water for private and public uses.
- It reduces sewer overflow events
- It improves air quality - Green infrastructure facilitates the incorporation of trees and vegetation in urban landscapes, which can contribute to improved air quality
- It creates additional wildlife habitat and recreational space - Greenways, parks, urban forests, wetlands, and vegetated swales are all forms of green infrastructure that provide increased access to recreational space and wildlife habitat.
- It increases land value - A number of case studies suggest that green infrastructure can increase surrounding property values
EPA will develop the use of green infrastructure in ten cities in the US by collaborating actively with local governments, groups, watershed, tribes. These cities are going to be highlighted as models for other cities. Boston is one of those cities. The goal of EPA is to spread the use of green infrastructure across the US to control stormwater.
Learn about Norfolk Ram's stormwater management services here.
If you have any questions about green infrastructure, please contact John McAllister at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (508) 747 - 7900 x 117.
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Information in this article is taken from EPA new release April, 29 2011, by Enesta Jones and Richard Yost.
For more information about this strategy, you can also download the Strategic Agenda to protect waters and build more livable communities through green infrastructure, that EPA released in 2009 about this subject, here : http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/gi_agenda_protectwaters.pdf.