Cities Turn to Green Infrastructure to Battle Pollution—and Save Money

New Haven, CT (August 23, 20120) – Rooftop gardens, specially designed wetlands, and right trees in the right place are helping cities and regional governments reduce air and water pollution, save money, and adapt to a changing environment. For example, cities like Seattle, New York City, and Sweden, are investing in rooftop gardens and pollution-filtering assemblages of trees to mitigate storm water runoff. These and other green infrastructure practices are taking off in the U.S. and globally.

To help grapple with water quality, climate, and urban livability, the “gray infrastructure” is being ditched for green.  Gray infrastructure is the system of pipes and ditches that channel storm water. Green infrastructure harnesses the natural processes of trees and other vegetation to carry out the functions of the built systems.

Green infrastructure practices also make financial sense. A 2012 study by American Rivers, ECONorthwest, and other groups examined 479 projects around the country. They found about a quarter of the projects were more expensive, and 31% cost the same. More than 44% lowered costs, in some cases substantially. New York City, for example, expects to save $1.5 billion over the next 20 years by using green infrastructure.

The Puget Sound city of Coupeville, Washington, for example, is experimenting with using trees and other plants to scrub runoff from a large parking lot and housing development. The densely planted poplar and willow trees, designed to capture and hold thousands of gallons of runoff a day, will neutralize the waste coming off streets, including ammonia, nitrates, and the copper from brake linings. The water is then used for irrigation.

Check out the “Related Resources” to learn more about cities in the U.S. and across the world using roof top gardens, rain gardens, strategically planted trees, and other best practices to create green infrastructures that address a host of urban quality of life concerns.

Related Resources:
With Funding Tight, Cities are Turning to Green Infrastructure
Going Green to Save Green: Economic Benefits of Green Infrastructure Practices