10 Things to Know about Green Stormwater Infrastructure

10 Things to Know about Green Stormwater Infrastructure
Mark Maimone and MArISSA BARLETTA
A more sustainable approach to managing urban stormwater is becoming the norm in cities nationwide.

Green infra­struc­ture is a more sustainable approach to managing urban stormwater. It can help you respond to envi­ron­men­tal conditions, create cost savings and support resilient communities.

  1. Clean Water Act compliance – Green stormwater infra­struc­ture (GSI) offers a way to achieve Clean Water Act compliance that is comparable in cost to traditional infra­struc­ture, such as storage tanks and tunnels. Its major financial advantage is that it can be implemented in phases and at varying scales, matching expenses to available funding. Addi­tion­ally, a city will begin reaping benefits of a GSI program immediately, even as the program is incre­men­tally implemented.
  2. Cost-effective part­ner­ships – Fully achieving a large-scale GSI-based program is not typically something that munic­i­pal­i­ties can implement alone in a cost-effective way. Part­ner­ships between agencies, funders, private developers and industries are critical to leverage resources and bring costs down.
  3. Green regulations – Creating and enforcing regulations for stormwater management onsite—for private development and rede­vel­op­ment—creates a strong foundation for a city-wide green program.
  4. Stormwater management incentives – Incen­tiviz­ing stormwater management by rede­vel­op­ing or retro­fitting private properties maximizes cost savings. In regions where a stormwater management fee structure is in place, a stormwater bill credit for property owners who manage runoff could be instituted. Rebates or tax incentives could be considered in areas with no stormwater management fee.
  5. GSI standards – Stan­dard­iz­ing designs and processes is critical for cost-effective use of GSI. Creating manuals that include designs and spec­i­fi­ca­tions for construct­ing, inspecting and maintaining GSI will broaden the spectrum of creators and installers of these tools. It will also ensure proper function of the stormwater management practices over the life of the systems.
  6. Social and envi­ron­men­tal rewards – Investors in GSI will see significant returns through social and envi­ron­men­tal benefits: green job creation, enhanced recre­ational oppor­tu­ni­ties, improved community quality of life, reduced effects from excessive heat, improved air quality, energy savings and climate change offsets.
  7. Green planting pros – Maximizing the planting of trees and vegetation will increase the return on investment, providing shade and insulation and reducing cooling and heating costs. Studies indicate that the property value of greened areas increases 5 percent or more—and that people value areas with concen­trated vegetation and are more likely to use them for recreation.
  8. A different shade of green management – GSI does not always look green; permeable paving and other onsite stormwater management techniques are also valuable tools in the GSI toolbox.
  9. Flood reduction – GSI can handle 1 to 1.5 inches of rainfall, potentially reducing or eliminating local street flooding for the more frequent, intense storms.
  10. Climate change response and mitigation – GSI can respond to the impacts of climate change, like more frequent and intense storms, by capturing the first 1 to 1.5 inches of rain. GSI can help mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions better than traditional infra­struc­ture — both in the materials used and the fact that no energy is required to pump and treat stormwater.


Marissa Pappas Barletta, CDM Smith planner, has 12 years of experience serving public clients. She specializes in research, planning and imple­men­ta­tion coor­di­na­tion and is the author of several publi­ca­tions and presen­ta­tions on that topic.

Mark Maimone, CDM Smith senior vice president, has over 25 years of experience in water resource planning, groundwater and surface water modeling, and decision support services working for clients both in the United States and abroad. He has worked with the Philadel­phia Water Department for 13 years on water supply and CSO planning and is the project manager for their Green City Clean Waters program.

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