New Report: Accounting for Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits for Municipalities from Green Infrastructure

Rain Garden, Mt. Airy Arboretum | © Ward Wilson, Tetra Tech

Implementing green infrastructure, like the rain garden pictured, can help reduce polluted stormwater runoff, while also saving money | © Ward Wilson, Tetra Tech

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has posted a new report, The Economic Benefits of Green Infrastructure: A Case Study of Lancaster, PA [PDF]. The report was developed in consultation with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), Tetra Tech and American Rivers with cooperation from a team from the City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania including the Public Works Department, CH2M Hill and Live Green. The report showcases the application of The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits (Guide) to support the City’s plan to use green infrastructure. The Green Infrastructure Plan for Lancaster addresses the City’s combined sewer system overflows of wastewater to the Conestoga River, as well as its contribution of pollutant loads to the Chesapeake Bay from its urban area of permitted stormwater runoff, known as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4).

Lancaster, Pennsylvania provided an ideal case study for the Guide because the City had begun implementation of a plan of community-wide green infrastructure practices based on the best possible modeling of costs, but without the extensive and expensive sort of triple bottom line study [PDF] that large cities such as Philadelphia have developed to support investment in their green infrastructure planning. Over the 25-year plan implementation period, the Lancaster study reports annual benefits of greater than $4.8 million from categories such as reduced maintenance costs, energy savings and air quality improvements with green infrastructure and avoided capital cost savings of $120 million from reduced investment in more expensive gray infrastructure. The report measured energy savings at nearly $2.4 million over the 25 years from temperature control in buildings and other energy benefits provided by increases in tree canopy, green roof and rainwater harvesting.. Similarly, reduced smog and air pollution is a benefit valued at just over $1 million annually through implementation of Lancaster’s City’s Green Infrastructure Plan.

The Guide was developed by CNT and American Rivers with support from EPA to provide municipalities a cost effective means to account for the multiple benefits of green infrastructure practices, such as green roofs, urban tree planting, permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting and bioretention. This accounting helps a municipality direct its water management investment wisely and ensure the community reaps the most benefit possible. The benefits of green infrastructure result in improved water quality and supply, energy savings and better air quality in a community all while improving aesthetics and providing greenspace.

Read more, and ask what the value of green infrastructure’s multiple benefits could mean in your city.

One Response to “New Report: Accounting for Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits for Municipalities from Green Infrastructure”

Di-Jon McRae

Why not make these retention ponds and gardens deeper so they mimic prairie potholes and hold more water? Also, why is money needed to save these rivers and clean them up. Problem is not the financial end, rather the actual doing end.