EPA is always looking for new ways to keep communities clean and healthy, while creating jobs and fostering economic growth. One way we’re accomplishing this goal is through innovative, sensible and cost-effective investments like green infrastructure.
When it rains, stormwater picks up oil, pesticides and other chemicals on our streets and buildings and carries those pollutants into nearby waters. Communities have traditionally considered this stormwater to be wastewater that needs to be stored and treated – something that’s very costly to cities and towns on a budget. Green infrastructure manages stormwater by treating it like the valuable resource it is, working with Mother Nature, not against her. By using permeable pavements, rain barrels, landscape changes and other techniques, green infrastructure changes capture and filter stormwater so our waters will stay clean.
Instead of relying wholly on expanding traditional, costly water infrastructure as communities grow, employing green infrastructure allows communities to keep their waters clean while also reducing flooding from stormwater overflows. At the same time, these cleaner, healthier communities become more attractive places to raise a family and start or grow a business – increasing property values and creating jobs.
We’ve seen the success green infrastructure investments can have in communities throughout the nation. Like in Seattle, Washington, where adding trees and shrubs to a city block reduced 99 percent of the stormwater runoff – leading local residents to advocate for similar changes on their streets.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where innovative strategies and investments like planting trees and installing green roofs have helped the city save about $170 million since 2006, according to city estimates.
And in my home city of New York, the Green Infrastructure Plan they released last year is putting roadside swales, rain barrels and other techniques to work. New York Mayor Bloomberg said these investments will cost the city “billions of dollars less than the cost of the traditional tanks and tunnels.”
These cities and many more have realized the benefits of coordination and are working with EPA to determine how green infrastructure plans can best help them meet their stormwater management needs now and in the future.
Learn more about how communities across the country are incorporating green infrastructure and other innovative techniques into their long-term clean water plans.
Bob Perciasepe is the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency