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Green Infrastructure Helps Communities Thrive

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American Rivers

Communities looking for the most cost-effective options for managing polluted runoff and protecting clean water should choose green infrastructure solutions, according to a report released April 12 by American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and ECONorthwest.

The report, 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.

“Polluted runoff is a pervasive threat to clean rivers and streams nationwide,” said Chris Williams, senior vice president for Conservation at American Rivers. “Communities across the country are protecting their water resources with green infrastructure. It effectively reduces pollution, saves money and delivers other benefits like flood damage prevention and improved public health.”

“WEF was pleased to be part of this important project,” said Jeff Eger, executive director of WEF. “We strongly support innovative green infrastructure solutions, which can be economically effective ways to protect and sustain our valuable water resources. Case studies shared in this report should be helpful to communities around the country and are from areas where green infrastructure is already making a difference.”

“For many decades, landscape architects have been helping communities large and small manage their stormwater with innovative green infrastructure solutions such as green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales and pervious pavements,” said Nancy Somerville, executive vice president of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “The case studies and the cost analysis in this white paper clearly demonstrate that green infrastructure techniques are proven and cost effective at managing stormwater, preventing flooding, improving water quality and promoting public health. Landscape architects will continue to implement these projects in more and more neighborhoods across the country.”

"This report addresses the real economic tradeoffs facing local utilities and developers as they consider green vs. conventional infrastructure," said Mark Buckley, managing director of ECONorthwest.

The report features case studies from cities saving money and enjoying the other benefits of green infrastructure. For example, New York City’s plan to reduce combined sewage overflows will save an estimated $1.5 billion over 20 years by incorporating green infrastructure rather than relying solely on traditional gray infrastructure like massive pipes. In Louisiana, a high school in Baton Rouge spent $110,000 on bioswales and a rain garden to reduce flooding rather than the $500,000 it would have cost to re-pipe the site.

The report’s top findings are as follows:

  1. Not only can the green infrastructure option cost less, but these practices can further reduce costs of treating large amounts of polluted runoff.
  2. Green infrastructure can help municipalities reduce energy expenses.
  3. Green infrastructure can reduce flooding and related flood damage.
  4. Green infrastructure improves public health—it reduces bacteria and pollution in rivers and streams, preventing gastrointestinal illnesses in swimmers and boaters.

 

American Rivers also launched “Get More Green," an online calculator tool that lets people determine how much money and water they can save by greening a particular rooftop.

For more information, click here.

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