Our Appraoch

Green infrastructure is a core concept in the frame of an ecosystem approach to advance urban resilience.

Why Is Green Infrastructure Important?

Green infrastructure reins in stormwater runoff, which the EPA describes as “one of the fastest-growing sources of pollution” in the United States. Here’s what happens.

Stormwater Runoff

Runoff, the product of rainstorms or snowstorms, flows over the ground and into drains, sewers, or waterways. The more permeable (or absorbent) the surface, the less runoff there will be. Porous natural landscapes, such as meadows and forests, will readily soak up as much as 90 percent of the rain or snowmelt they receive. In contrast, streets, parking lots, rooftops, and other hard, impervious (nonabsorbent) surfaces essentially repel stormwater, preventing it from soaking into the land and forcing it to flow whichever way gravity takes it. The average city block can generate more than five times as much runoff as a forested area of equal size

Stormwater Pollution

Water that drains from bathrooms, kitchens, and other sources with plumbing gets channeled via sewers to sewage treatment plants and is then discharged into public waterways. However, most storm drains funnel rainfall directly into waterways without treatment, bringing with it whatever it carries in a raw state, including trash, toxins, pathogens, excess sediment and nutrients, and thermal pollution (hot water that causes a sudden upswing in ambient water temperatures). The following are just some of the ways in which stormwater pollution impacts rivers, streams, lakes, oceans, and all of us.

Sewage overflows

Instead of separate storm drains, nearly 860 municipalities across the United States use combined sewer systems, which dump stormwater runoff into the same pipes that are used for domestic sewage and industrial wastewater. These sewer systems are designed to overflow when stormwater exceeds their capacity. A big storm, in other words, can cause an excess mess of both runoff and raw sewage to be released into waterways. In New York City alone, about 20 billion gallons of this noxious mixture pour from nearly 450 outfalls every year.

Impaired water quality

According to the EPA, urban stormwater is a “major” reason why nearly half of all U.S. rivers and streams—as well as a good chunk of our lakes and coastal waters—fail to meet national water quality standards. Impaired waters wreak havoc on ecosystems, imperil drinking water supplies and public health.

Erosion

Just an inch of rainfall on one mile of a narrow, two-lane road can produce 55,000 gallons of stormwater runoff. When funneled through a storm drain, the sudden entry of so much rainfall can damage and erode delicate banks of waterways, resulting in land and habitat loss and changing a waterway’s basic morphology.

Health toll

Stormwater runoff impacts the water we drink, the seafood we eat, and the recreational areas we visit. It introduces disease-causing pathogens into water. Rainfall runoff also inundates beach water with bacteria at levels that violate public health standards and sicken an estimated 3.5 million people a year nationwide.

This all havoics contribute in ‘Economic toll’ and hence Green Realty and Infrastructure is needed.

STORMWATER MANAGEMENT

Green infrastructure keeps waterways clean and healthy in two primary ways:

Water Retention

Green infrastructure prevents runoff by capturing rain where it falls, allowing it to filter into the earth (where it can replenish groundwater supplies), return to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration (when water evaporates directly from the land or plants), or be reused for another purpose, such as landscaping.

Water quality

Green infrastructure improves water quality by decreasing the amount of stormwater that reaches waterways and by removing contaminants from the water that does. Soil and plants help capture and remove pollutants from stormwater in a variety of ways, including adsorption (when pollutants stick to soil or plants), filtration (when particulate matter gets trapped), plant uptake (when vegetation absorbs nutrients from the ground), and the decomposition of organic matter. These processes break down or capture many of the common pollutants found in runoff, from heavy metals to oil to bacteria.

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anand@nanjilanandfoundation.org