Banking on Green: A Look at How Green Infrastructure Can Save Municipalities Money and Provide Economic Benefits Community-wide

By Jeffrey Odefey, Stacey Detwiler, Katie Rousseau, Amy Trice, Roxanne Blackwell, Kevin O’Hara, Mark Buckley, Tom Souhlas, Seth Brown and Pallavi Raviprakash

Washington, DC (April 1, 2012)- Across the country, communities are struggling with how to fix and replace failing and outdated infrastructure and meet new demand to manage stormwater and protect clean water. American Rivers worked with the American Society of Landscape Architects, ECONorthwest, and the Water Environment Federation to release the “Banking on Green” report to build on the current understanding of the cost-effectiveness of green infrastructure and examine how these practices can increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs, reduce localized flooding, and protect public health.

This report focuses on the economic impacts caused by polluted urban runoff, also known as “stormwater,” a significantly growing source of water pollution in the United States.1 It’s intended to be an “easy to read” compendium of current experiences, analysis and knowledge. Our goal is to provide something useful for municipal and utility officials, local, state and national elected representatives, and the general public. As stormwater professionals and researchers gather more information about the performance of green infrastructure, and refine the techniques that fall in this category of stormwater management, it’s important to translate their findings into useful information for policy makers and others. Information about the economics of green infrastructure and about stormwater more broadly is critical to our ongoing conversations about the shape of our communities and the infrastructure they depend upon.

The impacts of stormwater pollution and the need to provide stormwater prevention, management, and treatment all create costs for communities and their residents. These costs can often be offset or reduced by making different choices about how we build communities and infrastructure. By incorporating “green infrastructure” practices in efforts to control stormwater runoff, communities and property developers can reduce energy costs, diminish the impacts of flooding, improve public health, and reduce overall infrastructure costs. In addition, these practices, which rely on natural processes like evaporation, infiltration, and plant transpiration, can effectively and affordably complement traditional “grey” infrastructure, giving stormwater managers the ability to create integrated solutions to better serve their communities. Shifting to this new paradigm also creates more sustainable communities that are better able to meet future challenges, especially in the face of a changing climate.

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Banking on Green: A Look at How Green Infrastructure Can Save Municipalities Money and Provide Economic Benefits Community-wide