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Water: Green Infrastructure

Community-Scale Studies

EPA is assessing the performance of green infrastructure practices in several communities.  Researchers are examining the impacts of green infrastructure not only on water quality and aquatic ecosystems, but on social and economic outcomes as well.  EPA is particularly interested in the potential for green infrastructure to revitalize struggling communities while advancing water quality goals. Learn more about EPA research on green infrastructure.

Cincinnati Waterfront
Cincinnati, Ohio

For the last 100 years, the Lick Run stream in Cincinnati was put into a pipe that combines storm flows and sewage. During even small storms, the pipe spills its polluted mixture into the nearby Mill Creek where downstream water quality is compromised.

A recent goal of EPA and the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati is to remove stormwater discharge from the pipe and return the Lick Run to a state that flows freely to the Mill Creek. As part of this goal, EPA researchers are collaborating with the local sewer district to monitor and adjust several green infrastructure early success projects that are designed to take stormwater out of the combined sewer and put it to good use elsewhere.

Cleveland Steet
Cleveland, Ohio
EPA research in Cleveland is exploring the potential of green infrastructure on vacant lots to both reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and revitalize urban neighborhoods. Cleveland's CSO area includes a significant percentage of vacant land.  Researchers hypothesize that this land represents not only a blight on the community, but a missed opportunity to improve water quality as well. To test this hypothesis, EPA researchers have developed a phased research project.  In the first phase, researchers examined the impact of residential demolition on the ability of urban soils to store and redistribute water.  This research is described in the pilot project below.  In the second phase, researchers are conducting a green infrastructure retrofit of a neighborhood block in the Slavic Village area.  Researchers will monitor this retrofit project to assess both the effectiveness of an adaptive management approach in meeting community goals, and the effectiveness of greening vacant lots in reducing stormwater volumes and CSOs. The Slavic Village Pilot Project is described below.
Adaptive Management for Urban Watersheds: The Slavic Village Pilot Project (PDF) (2 pp, 268K, About PDF)

Kansas City Rain Garden
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City’s Water Services Department has conducted extensive modeling and economic studies of its combined sewer system over the last five years in preparation for submittal of its long-term CSO control plan to EPA, in January 2009.  These studies and recent funding opportunities led to Kansas City being selected as a case study location for a pilot project to demonstrate the efficacy and sustainability of green infrastructure approaches in an urban-core neighborhood served by a combined sewer system.

This pilot project is part of a larger adaptive management approach to incorporate green solutions into the Kansas City CSO long-term control plan. The project involves local and regional efforts to provide the “basis-for-success” of the implementation of green solution infrastructure and stormwater management at the neighborhood, watershed, and regional levels. The project will demonstrate the methodology, including model support, for identifying where and how green solutions will be implemented within Kansas City.

Struck, S., R. Pitt, R. Field, A. N. Tafuri, A. Khalid, and F. Reddy. Application of Green Infrastructure for Combined Sewer Overflow, Kansas City, MO. Presented at WEF Collection System Specialty Conference, Raleigh, NC, June 12 - 15, 2011.

Permeable Pavers
Louisville, Kentucky
The Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) is acting to reduce the number and volume of combined sewer overflows from the existing combined sewer system (CSS).  As part of its Integrated Overflow Abatement Plan, MSD decided to manage stormwater entering the CSS using green infrastructure stormwater controls where the construction costs are no larger than the gray alternative construction costs for the given drainage basin.  The MSD and EPA are interested in monitoring and documenting the ability of green infrastructure to reduce stormwater entering the CSS.  This project monitors a subset of the green infrastructure controls installed in the sewershed using a collection of instruments supported by some manual measurements to document the long-term performance of individual controls.  The combined effect of the controls, both monitored and unmonitored, will be measured by monitoring flow within the CSS.

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