Achieving Climate Adaptation through Green Infrastructure Solutions

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Extreme weather events like heavy and prolonged rainfalls, heatwaves and droughts are two of the many consequences of climate change, these events are predicted to become more frequent and intense.

Stormwater runoff due to heavy rains can cause a lot of problems in urban areas such as pollution and illness from bacteria carried by stormwater runoff. It can also cause flooding and soil erosion that can damage infrastructure and property.

One solution to reduce its impacts and to improve resilience is through the use of green infrastructure.

What is Green Infrastructure?

It’s a water management system that simulates the natural water cycle to store, absorb, and recycle water in an efficient and economical way to protect and enhance a community’s quality of life.

Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provide many community benefits.

Single-purpose grey stormwater infrastructure—conventional piped drainage and water treatment systems—is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment.

Green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 2017

It is “how nature can actually be harnessed to provide services for communities—like flood prevention, reducing urban heat effect, improving air and water quality, and elevating the overall wellbeing of humans” according to Klausing group, 2016.

The good thing about green infrastructure is that it can be applied to a local and large-scale level.

Examples of green infrastructures can be built in houses and buildings.

Rain gardens. Built on a sloping landscape. The purpose is to collect and absorb runoff from sidewalks, streets, and rooftops. Filter the sedimentation and debris, help eliminate flooding, and improves the efficiency of stormwater systems.

Permeable pavements. Are made of either porous concrete or permeable asphalt or interlocking pavements that can absorb runoff and helps in the evaporation of water, which can reduce heat in urban areas.

Green roofs. Are roofs that are covered in vegetation. Helps store and filter water and provide a cooling effect to urban areas thereby reducing the cost of air-conditioning. It also helps absorb carbon emissions as well.

Other green infrastructures using the same principles as above are:

  • the use of planter boxes; planting trees to provide natural canopies, for water and soil retention, and carbon absorption;
  • and use of rainwater harvesting systems to prevent water runoff, and in regions, with limited water supply, it can help reduce demand for water.

On a large-scale level, the application of green infrastructure would be the preservation and restoration of natural landscapes, like floodplains and wetlands.

Benefits of Implementing Green Infrastructure

The article, “What is Green Infrastructure” by American Rivers, an organisation that protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers and conserve clean water for people and nature, presents the following benefits of having green infrastructure:

Nature works best

Rivers, streams, wetlands, forests, and flood plains clean water and protect us from floods.  New York invested 6M to purchase land around its Catskill reservoir to protect its drinking tap water from polluted and dirty runoff water to enter its water supply. $6M investment is much lower than the projected $6B cost of constructing a water filtration plant.

Spend money wisely

Using wetlands, trees, and downspout disconnection can reduce stormwater flow and relieve pressure from stormwater drainage. In Indianapolis it reduces the size of their pipes, allowing them to save hundreds of million dollars.

Enhance community safety and enjoyment

Green solutions offer the flexibility needed for climate change that 19th-century infrastructure cannot handle increasing floods and droughts. Green infrastructure offers a modern approach to protect the health, safety, and quality of life.

In Napa, CA instead of the traditional way of lining their river with concrete, they have restored their rivers and wetlands as natural water channels.  It has protected 2,700 homes and prevented $26 million in flood damage, according to the article.

Create jobs and good for the economy

Surely, green infrastructure application creates jobs, such as plumbing, landscaping, infrastructure engineering, building, and design. It supports supply chains and manufacturers of materials for rainwater harvesting systems, permeable pavements, and roof membranes.

Read the full articles where this post is based from:

PHOTO CREDIT: By EPA – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C. “Soak Up the Rain Green Infrastructure 2016 Handout”, Public Domain, Link

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