Reducing Flooding and Cleaning Water in Columbia, South Carolina


Shandon neighborhood, Columbia, SC

Shandon neighborhood, Columbia, SC | City of Columbia

You don’t normally think of the southeast when you think about green infrastructure, but we are working to change that. There are cities all over the southeast that are integrating green infrastructure into their solutions to the many problems that excessive stormwater runoff creates.

Columbia, SC is the latest to move forward with the idea. The stormwater system is aging and inadequate. Often the pipes and drainage systems that were put in older neighborhoods are not big enough to deal with the storms now affecting the city.

The City has two choices- spend a lot of money digging up and replacing the pipes with bigger pipes and maintain an outdated style of stormwater management or integrate infrastructure into the built system that mimics the natural processes of the landscape reducing polluted runoff and saving money in the process.

The Shandon neighborhood is the first to explore this option in a significant way. It is an older neighborhood in the city and has had historic flooding problems with rain events. The Stormwater Department of Columbia will be using this neighborhood as a test case to see if they can solve the flooding problem with a combination of natural green infrastructure and conventional solutions.

For Phase One of the project ($1 million of a $6 million project),they have hired a firm that has put together a draft plan [PDF] to solve this problem while saving money.

The conventional (new, bigger pipes) design is estimated to cost almost twice as much ($12 million) as the innovative green infrastructure solution ($6 million). Columbia has some big water quality problems and this is a good step in the right direction for them to take.

We will keep an eye on this project as it moves forward and work to expand these options for neighborhoods all over Columbia… and the southeast!