Stormwater Management: Is It the Key to Greener, More Resilient and Healthier Cities

Sourced from the Living Architecture Monitor

Imagine a city virtually devoid of plants - just steel, glass, asphalt and concrete. Would you want to live there? Probably not! Now imagine a city where plants are everywhere – on the ground, on the walls, and atop our buildings. Would you want to live there? The odds are that not only you would, but you’d be willing to pay more to live in such a community.  

Regulations requiring stormwater management are fueling renewed efforts to invest in green infrastructure on public and private property. As more jurisdictions look to manage stormwater by using green infrastructure technologies, the demand for urban forests, bioswales, green roofs and walls and other supportive technologies grows. Stormwater is a serious challenge with annual discharges in the trillion of gallons. Stormwater contributes to flooding, combined sewer overflows, erosion and impairment of water quality. Just look at the streets and think about the poison concoction of salt, brake linings, silt, rubber, pesticides, and animal feces which is urban stormwater – then add raw sewage to the mix and presto - you’ve got combined sewer overflow. When it rains, or the snow melts, this highly contaminated liquid that discharges into our lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries, or perhaps, a large multi-billion dollar holding tank only to be discharged later. There is no ‘away’ for stormwater! Our growing awareness that our use of micro beads made of plastic wash back into our food chain and ultimately into our bodies demonstrates clearly that there is no ‘away’!

Reducing stormwater substantially through onsite capture, retention and treatment, can’t solve the plastic issue, but does go a long way to addressing many of these problems. Moreover, when we address stormwater management by investing in green infrastructure solutions, we are also able to address other pressing issues in our communities, such as the urban heat island effect which contributes to air quality pollution, the need for employment, access to food, and the unhealthy lack of green space. Taxpayers can get far more bang for their public buck by investing in widespread green infrastructure implementation than huge holding tanks to capture stormwater and new power plants for air conditioners to fight the worsening urban heat island effect.

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