Green Infrastructure and Stormwater

You might’ve heard about green infrastructure before, but what does it actually mean? Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits. While single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure–conventional piped drainage and water treatment systems–is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Stormwater runoff is a major cause of water pollution in urban areas. When rain falls on our roofs, streets, and parking lots in cities and their suburbs, the water cannot soakinto the ground as it should. Stormwater drains through gutters, storm sewers, and other engineered collection systems and is discharged into nearby water bodies. The stormwater runoff carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants from the urban landscape. Higher flows resulting from heavy rains also can cause erosion and flooding in urban streams, damaging habitat, property, and infrastructure.

When rain falls in natural, undeveloped areas, the water is absorbed and filtered by soil and plants. Stormwater runoff is cleaner and less of a problem. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other elements and practices to restore some of the natural processes required to manage water and create healthier urban environments. At the city or county scale, green infrastructure is a patchwork of natural areas that provides habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water. At the neighborhood or site scale, stormwater management systems that mimic nature soak up and store water.

Learn more about green infrastructure elements that can be woven into a community, from small-scale elements integrated into sites to larger scale elements spanning entire watersheds:

Take a tour of St. Cloud’s green infrastructure rain gardens here.

From EPA “What is Green Infrastructure?”

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