Green Infrastructure Making Its Mark from Small Towns to Big Cities

At the end of September, New York City introduced a $1.5 billion plan to implement green infrastructure technologies across the city to help manage the stormwater runoff that overwhelms the city’s water infrastructure and causes an estimated 1.25 billion gallons of untreated sewage to flow directly into the city’s waterways every year.

Together with a $2.9 billion plan using traditional “grey” stormwater management strategies, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) predicts that this combination of green and grey infrastructure will cut stormwater runoff volumes by 3.8 billion gallons every year. This means that the combined sewer overflow events in the city will be reduced by as much as 40 percent by 2030. To get the same reductions using only grey stormwater management, the city would need to invest an additional $2.4 billion.

Green infrastructure practices are emerging across the country, from green roofs in Oklahoma to city-wide plans in places like New York City and Philadelphia. In our recent report, Putting Green to Work, we analyzed the impacts of the Green Project Reserve which provided dedicated funding for green infrastructure and water efficiency projects. Every state was able to use the required 20 percent of their water infrastructure money and we found that across the country demand for funding far exceeded the supply.

Green infrastructure is even making its mark on the Hill with the recent hearing on green infrastructure in the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee. Members heard testimony from Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) and representatives from the Town of Edmonston, MD, the City of Philadelphia, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and others about the impacts of green infrastructure and low impact development on water quality, economics, and communities.

As Mayor Ortiz from the Town of Edmonston, MD which received $1 million in Green Reserve funding to construct a green street, concluded in his testimony, ‘…if our little town can build a responsible, sustainable street like this, anybody can and everybody should.”

A slow shift is beginning towards incorporating these strategies as one more tool in the toolbox in addressing the challenges of stormwater management. From the small town of Edmonston to New York City, communities are starting to embrace the environmental, social, and economic benefits of green infrastructure solutions.