Water: Green Infrastructure
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White House Conference On Green Infrastructure
Managing urban stormwater remains a challenge for communities needing to improve their infrastructure and reduce urban impacts to water quality. Identifying approaches that are both environmentally and socially sustainable is critical to ensuring that the most cost-effective strategies are adopted. Green infrastructure continues to emerge as a solution that can supplant or complement conventional “gray” management methods while also providing environmental, economic, recreational and public-health benefits.
On September 20, 2012, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and EPA will host a conference to explore pathways to more broadly implement green infrastructure. The day’s agenda (PDF) (2 pp, 204K, About PDF) will ask the invited experts and stakeholders to focus on:
- Defining the range of benefits of green-infrastructure practices;
- Identifying barriers to implementing these practices;
- Evaluating options and opportunities for funding, financing and valuing green infrastructure; and
- Developing practical actions that government, communities and others can take to promote greater implementation of green infrastructure to address urban stormwater.
See the conference participant guide (PDF) (9 pp, 356K, About PDF) for additional information on the day's activities.
Read Ahead Material
There is growing recognition among municipalities and other interested organizations that the deployment of green infrastructure practices can be an effective way to manage stormwater as well as provide an array of diverse co-benefits (e.g. human health benefits, reduced flooding, heat island reduction, energy savings, wildlife habitat, green jobs, and general livability). In addition to providing diverse benefits, green infrastructure practices are often less costly than more conventional gray infrastructure.
Although some communities have been able to fit substantial green infrastructure measures into existing stormwater programs, many other communities face challenges in implementing green infrastructure practices on a broad scale.
EPA has responded to this concern by promoting integrated planning of municipal stormwater and wastewater; issuing a Green Infrastructure Agenda; and including green infrastructure practices in some combined sewer overflow (CSO) consent decrees. In addition, EPA has initiated a national rulemaking to strengthen its stormwater program and is exploring options to encourage the implementation of green infrastructure practices. States and communities are also implementing a range of green infrastructure practices and are building a record of successful stormwater management approaches. Engineering and construction companies are supporting this effort with the development of innovative green infrastructure stormwater management practices. And, environmental organizations are documenting the diverse environmental and human health benefits of green infrastructure measures and helping build public support for these approaches.
Some green infrastructure resources are provided below as background information for the conference.
- EPA’s Green Infrastructure Website
- EPA’s April 2011 Strategic Agenda for Green Infrastructure (PDF) (5 pp, 355K, About PDF)
- EPA’s Memorandum: Achieving Water Quality Through Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Plans (PDF) (3 pp, 1.7MB, About PDF)
- Conservation Fund’s “Green Infrastructure Planning: Recent Advances and Applications” (PDF) (14 pp, 481K, About PDF): This is a summary overview with links to resources and case studies that discusses the importance of green infrastructure planning.
- National League of Cities’ Sustainable Cities Institute’s Website: This Website provides a variety of resources related to municipal green infrastructure.
- Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Website: This Website provides links to maps and a virtual green infrastructure tour of the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Barriers and Solutions
- Water Environment Federation (WEF) List of Barriers and Solutions to Green Infrastructure
- Clean Water America Alliance’s “Barriers and Gateways to Green Infrastructure”: This document summarizes the results of a survey and is informed by the ongoing green infrastructure research and education programs of the Clean Water America Alliance.
- Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) "A Clear Blue Future": This Website examines the ability of green infrastructure to help provide water supply to southern California, and discusses the energy and air pollution benefits of not having to provide water from a great distance.
- National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center’s “The Practice of Low Impact Development” (PDF) (131 pp, 3.3MB, About PDF): This document was prepared by the NAHB Research Center for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and focuses specifically on technologies that can be integrated into existing land development practices.
- ECONorthwest’s “Managing Stormwater in Redevelopment and Greenfield Development Projects Using Green Infrastructure: Economic Factors that Influence Developers' Decisions” (PDF) (30 pp, 291K, About PDF): This report the developers’ decision-making process in three jurisdictions (Montgomery County, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Olympia, Washington) that have recently implemented stronger stormwater standards for retention and/or water-quality treatment and have allowed or required consideration of environmentally sensitive design.
Valuing and Financing
- American Rivers’ “The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits”: This document provides a framework to help communities measure and value the air quality, energy use, and many other benefits that green infrastructure provides.
- NRDC’s "Rooftops to Rivers II": This document discusses policy, economic, and environmental context of green infrastructure, what 20 North American cities are doing on green infrastructure (with detailed profiles of 14, including an evaluation of those cities' programs on NRDC’s "Emerald City" scale).
- NRDC’s "Financing Stormwater Retrofits in Philadelphia and Beyond": This document discusses ways that innovative financing mechanisms, analogous to those used to help pay for energy efficiency projects, can encourage private investment in green infrastructure initiatives.
- EPA’s Fact Sheet on Using State Revolving Funds to Manage Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure (PDF) (6 pp, 458K, About PDF)