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Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Improperly managed stormwater runoff from urbanized areas can:

  • Damage streams
  • Cause significant erosion and flooding
  • Carry excessive nutrients, sediments, toxic metals, and other pollutants downstream

Green stormwater infrastructure is a network of natural and semi-natural systems that manage stormwater runoff by slowing the rate of water flow and filtering out harmful pollutants before they drain into waterways.

Commonly used practices include:

  • Rain gardens
  • Pervious pavement
  • Green roofs
  • Enhanced riparian areas
  • Naturalized infiltration basins
  • Bioswales

In addition to lowering the amount of pollutants in waterways, green stormwater infrastructure benefits community by:

  • Reducing the rate and flow of stormwater, which increases property values
  • Revitalizing community infrastructure
  • Improving air quality by reducing air pollution
  • Elevating the economic value of community parks, trails, and open spaces

Parks, trails, and other public amenities can be ideal places to implement green stormwater infrastructure because they are publicly owned and can easily be designed or retrofitted to incorporate green infrastructure practices mentioned previously.

Public places are seen not as a “nice thing to have,” but as a necessity for effectively and economically managing stormwater and meeting state and federal regulatory pollution requirements.

In recent years, communities are using the green infrastructure elements of their public lands to help meet their state and federal regulatory requirements for:

  • Stormwater management
  • Water pollution reduction
  • Sediment control

Planning for Green Infrastructure

A green infrastructure plan examines how communities function in their watershed and identifies specific locations where green infrastructure practices can:

  • Reduce combined sewer overflows
  • Reduce legacy sediments
  • Minimize flooding
  • Improve riparian habitat

Plans are developed with the guidance of a professional consultant. Planning entails extensive community outreach and education about stormwater management, best management practices, and green infrastructure.

Plans can include one or more municipalities, or address a specific property or project.

Green infrastructure plans include a prioritized list of demonstration projects and, in some cases, site plans for these sites, associated costs, and potential funding sources.

Examples of specific local Pennsylvania parks that have used green infrastructure to leverage multiple funding sources include:

  • Wrightsville Borough’s Riverfront Park
  • Carlisle Borough’s Stormwater Park
  • Lebanon City’s Coleman Park
  • York Township’s Stump Park
  • Lancaster City’s Brandon Park

Examples of municipal green infrastructure plans include:

Funding for Green Infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure is multifunctional by assisting communities with meeting their state and federal permit requirements, and being used as a tool to holistically revitalize communities.

Green infrastructure can be built into many public infrastructure projects, including:

  • Park development
  • Road improvements
  • Sidewalks
  • Plazas
  • Alleyways

Each of these types of infrastructure has funding sources available from various state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and foundations.

Pennsylvania municipalities can leverage various sources of funding to manage stormwater and revitalize their public infrastructure with minimum local financial contribution.

Potential funding sources for green infrastructure include:

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Resources

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Recreation and Conservation supports green infrastructure planning and implementation and has collected resources to help communities implement green stormwater infrastructure projects:

Cost Benefit Analysis

A collection of calculators, tools, models, and factsheets to assist with the decision of whether to install green infrastructure on your site.