(Posted by Trent A. Dougherty, Esq., Director of Legal Affairs, Ohio Environmental Council)
Polluted stormwater runoff is one of the only significantly growing sources of water pollution to urban and suburban waters and watersheds across Ohio. As the Clean Water Act attacked point source discharges for 40 years, pollution from streets and roofs plague communities each time it rains. Rain that once soaked into unpaved ground, now runs in torrents over impervious parking lots into storm drains and to local streams and rivers. Cleaning up that polluted runoff costs money to treat, requires enormous amounts of energy to transport and treat stormwater. The stormwater leads to increased bacteria pollutant loads and increased risk of damaging floods.
Towns and cities across the state and across the country are struggling with how to fix and replace failing and outdated water infrastructure and meet new demand to manage stormwater and protect clean water. These communities are usually having to make these decisions on already strapped, shoestring budgets.
Yet, there is an answer – Green Infrastructure.
According to a report released today by American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and ECONorthwest, Banking on Green: How Green Infrastructure Saves Municipalities Money and Provides Economic Benefits Community-wide, demonstrates that green infrastructure practices can offer more cost-effective solutions relative to traditional infrastructure approaches. The report also details additional potential benefits of green infrastructure such as lower energy expenses, reduced flood damage and improved public health.
Green infrastructure refers to practices like green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales, and pervious pavement that capture and treat rainwater and runoff. These measures reduce the amount of polluted runoff — the water that mixes with oil, pesticides, and other pollutants as it rushes over streets, parking lots and yards into local streams.
The report, among other impressive real-life case studies of green infrastructure at work, highlights Ohio’s own Cuyahoga Falls. The City of Cuyahoga Falls used FEMA funds to acquire four flood-damaged residential properties located in a neighborhood which has suffered from repetitive flooding. The City intends to demolish the structures and turn parts of the newly created open-space into a series of rain gardens to mitigate localized flooding in the area. The innovative design measures of this Rain Garden Reserve create an additional 5 five acres of storage for runoff, and enhances outdoor educational and recreational opportunities for the community.
Many people have no idea that the roads, rooftops, and parking lots near them can contribute significantly to local flooding. In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 25% of economic losses caused by flooding are a result of urban drainage.
Implementing green infrastructure practices can help communities drastically avoid the costs of flooding damages by reducing runoff, addressing the problem before it starts.
Green Infrastructure, like pervious pavement, green roofs, and rain gardens can save communities money, save energy, protect public health, and keep flood waters at bay. Local communities need to invest in Green Infrastructure, and the Governor and his EPA need to incentivize the use of these cost-effective, and cost-cutting practices.
Check out the recent report, Banking on Green, to learn more about the cost-effectiveness of green infrastructure practices and the benefits they can provide to communities beyond clean water!
Read the report at www.americanrivers.org/goinggreen