Green Infrastructure Working for North Carolina

Guest blog post by Jessie Allen, American Rivers’ volunteer NC Research Associate

North Carolina rain gardenGreen infrastructure practices are gaining popularity as more cities and towns begin to look for innovative ways to effectively manage stormwater. The benefits of green infrastructure practices are clear: less water pollution, cleaner air, and greater energy efficiency, but there are still a few barriers to overcome before these practices will be implemented on a larger scale.

In North Carolina, one of the major barriers to the widespread implementation of green infrastructure is a lack of trust in the technology, which stems from a misperception that there aren’t enough local examples of these practices and that their performance is unknown.

To address at least some aspects of this barrier, we collected data on current green infrastructure practices in North Carolina. It turns out that North Carolina has almost 2,000 documented examples of green infrastructure in more than 100 municipalities and counties in every region of the state.

Urban metropolitan regions like Charlotte, the Triangle and the Triad have the highest density of green infrastructure practices. The data was collected from a wide assortment of sources including: municipalities, state and federally funded programs, non-profit organizations, research and extension offices, private businesses, universities, and existing databases.

The data set is not comprehensive but we estimate that it accounts for about 80% of the implemented or planned projects in NC. The final product from this data collection process is an interactive green infrastructure map of North Carolina showing where the project is located and the funding source (when available). (view larger map)

The map overlays green infrastructure examples with a labeled satellite map of North Carolina. Users can zoom in and out, click on the data points to view detailed information, and filter the data by type of practice. Data points are geo-referenced to municipal or county boundaries depending on the data source.

Because these points are not associated with specific coordinates, the data have been aggregated into clusters when the location, type of practice, and funding sources are identical. The number of practices is included in each of these aggregated clusters. The map highlights the progress that North Carolina has made to embrace green infrastructure practices.

Stormwater managers can use it as a tool to identify effective practices and funding opportunities for green infrastructure. This research reveals that some practices are heavily relied on while others are underutilized.

It is critical that the full array of green infrastructure practices are implemented in North Carolina and that additional regulatory incentives are put in place to provide stormwater managers with a variety of solutions to improve water quality.