Green Infrastructure for Wet Weather
What is Green Infrastructure?
This stormwater planter collects and filters
runoff from a parking garage
The term green infrastructure (GI) describes a variety of site design techniques and structural practices used by communities, businesses, homeowners and others for managing stormwater. On a larger scale, green infrastructure includes preserving and restoring natural landscape features (such as forests, floodplains and wetlands), and reducing the amount of land covered by impervious surfaces. On a smaller scale, GI practices include green roofs, pervious pavement, rain gardens, vegetated swales, planters and stream buffers.
Why is Green Infrastructure Important?
As it flows over the ground and impervious surfaces, stormwater (rain and melting snow) collects debris, chemicals, sediment and other pollutants. Those pollutants may then end up in nearby lakes, rivers, and streams where people swim, fish, play and draw drinking water, or in local sewer systems where more problems can arise.
While some sewer systems are capable of handling large volumes of stormwater, many are not. In particular, combined sewer systems that carry stormwater, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater can be overwhelmed by rainwater and melting snow. These combined sewer overflows (CSOs), can send untreated waste into nearby waterbodies. GI practices help control stormwater at its source, remove pollutants, and reduce the amount of runoff and waste that ends up in sewer systems and local waterbodies.
Benefits of Green Infrastructure
When managing stormwater, green infrastructure practices can be less expensive than expanding, or building new, sewer and water treatment systems. GI practices also have a number of secondary benefits including aesthetic improvements, cleaner air, energy savings, urban cooling, climate change mitigation and improved human health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a green infrastructure webpage with details on the benefits described above (see the Links Leaving DEC's Website section in the right-hand column of this page for a direct link).