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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:

Resources and Tools for Managing Green Stormwater Infrastructure

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation supports green infrastructure planning and implementation and has collected resources to help communities implement green stormwater infrastructure projects:

City Parks, Clean Water: Making Great Places Using Green Infrastructure (PDF)

Trust for Public Land, March 2016. This report explores the incorporation of green infrastructure into urban parks and its impacts on residents. Using case studies, data tables, and interviews with national experts, the report explores both new and existing parks, including in-depth studies of water-smart parks.

Community Based Public-Private Partnerships and Alternative Market-Based Tools for Integrated Green Stormwater Infrastructure: A Guide for Local Governments (PDF)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, April 2015. This document details how local governments can develop community-based public-private partnerships for integrated green stormwater infrastructure using emerging market-based tools.

Creating Sustainable Community Parks and Landscapes: A Guide to Improving Quality of Life by Protecting Natural Resources, Second Edition (PDF)

PA DCNR, 2010. This DCNR guidebook outlines the benefits of enhancing the natural resources in local parks, explains how to maintain parks in a sustainable manner, and provides a step-by-step guide to help park staff achieve those results.

“Enhancing Your Community’s Green Infrastructure: Holistic Approaches Can Lead to Sustainable Community Development” (PDF) 

By Lori Yeich. Borough News, November 2016. This article outlines the challenges boroughs face with meeting federal mandates meant to improve waterways, and how multifunctional green infrastructure enables them to address these requirements and revitalize their communities.

Financing Stormwater Retrofits in Philadelphia and Beyond (PDF) 

Alisa Valderrama and Larry Levine, Natural Resources Defense Council, 2014. This document describes Philadelphia’s innovative stormwater billing structure and how it sets the stage for innovative financing mechanisms that can underwrite the capital costs of green infrastructure retrofits.

Finding the Green! A Guide for State Funding Opportunities for Recreation, Conservation and Preservation Projects, 2016–2017 Edition (PDF)

Growing Greener Coalition, 2016. This guide offers a thorough and accurate rundown of state funding opportunities for conservation, preservation, and recreation projects throughout the commonwealth in a single source.

Getting to Green: Paying for Green Infrastructure, Financing Options and Resources for Local Decision-Makers (PDF)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2015. This report summarizes various funding sources that can be used to support stormwater management programs or finance individual projects.

“Implementing GI Into Stormwater Management” (PDF)

By Lori Yeich. Borough News, December 2016. This article explores how communities can leverage funding from various agencies to holistically and sustainably revitalize their communities and clean up waterways.

Managing Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure: Municipal Handbook

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, September 2008. The Municipal Handbook is a series of downloadable documents that can help local officials implement green infrastructure in their communities.

“Parks to the Rescue” (SlideShare)

By Ann E. Yost and Kelly Gutshall. Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Magazine, February, 2016. This article discusses opportunities for municipal officials to use parkland to meet challenges related to stormwater regulatory requirements, to prevent flooding, and for ongoing maintenance.

The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits (PDF)

American Rivers and Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2010. This guide examines the steps necessary to calculate a variety of performance benefits gained by implementing green infrastructure strategies and then, where possible, illustrates simplified examples that estimate the magnitude and value of these benefits.

DCNR Webinar: Making Community Parks Sustainable, Fun, and Functional through Green Infrastructure (WMV)

Lori Yeich, Jan. 18, 2017. Length: 75 minutes. This webinar explores how green infrastructure elements are an essential part of a community’s revitalization process and assists with mitigating regulatory requirements for stormwater. It also explores how to integrate green infrastructure into park projects, potentially receive “credit” for them as part of their MS4 permitting requirements, and leverage various funding sources.

Green Infrastructure Modeling Toolkit

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The models and tools in this toolkit incorporate green infrastructure practices to help communities manage their water resources in a more sustainable way, increasing resilience to future changes, such as climate and extreme events.

Green Infrastructure Webcast Series. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

This webcast series is for public officials and practitioners beginning to implement green infrastructure, as well as for those looking to enhance established programs.

PA Green Community Parks Map

The sites identified on this map represent a selection of community parks across Pennsylvania that have incorporated best practices in green and sustainable design, operations, and maintenance. The map also lists parks that have been nominated and selected for the annual DCNR/PRPS Green Park Award.

Pennsylvania’s Interactive Sustainable Park Design Model

This interactive park design model, designed by Boucher and James, Inc., for DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, is intended to assist communities and organizations with designing and developing parks using green and sustainable best management practices.

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.