Green infrastructure and multiple benefits

Green infrastructure (GI) encompasses a wide array of practices, including stormwater management. Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) encompasses a variety of practices primarily designed for managing stormwater runoff but that provide additional benefits such as habitat or aesthetic value. There is no universal definition of GI or GSI (link here for more information). Consequently, the terms are often interchanged, leading to confusion and misinterpretation. GSI practices are designed to function as stormwater practices first (e.g. flood control, treatment of runoff, volume control), but they can provide additional benefits. Though designed for stormwater function, GSI practices, where appropriate, should be designed to deliver multiple benefits (often termed "multiple stacked benefits". For more information on green infrastructure, ecosystem services, and sustainability, link to Multiple benefits of green infrastructure and role of green infrastructure in sustainability and ecosystem services.

Permeable pavement

Permeable pavement is a beneficial technology for stormwater management. This technology is highly beneficial for long term soil and water preservation of a site and has significant water quality impact for downstream systems such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. This technology operates by allowing water to flush quickly through pavement systems that would otherwise act as a conveyance system and remove water from a site. This water is instead drained directly downward through the pavement and into the ground underneath.

When designing a system, it is recommended to determine if permeable pavement would be feasible. Smaller sites may not see as much benefit due to lower runoff volumes but roadways, parking lots, and any other appropriate paved surface may benefit from this. Permeable pavement can be used in conjunction with other stormwater measures to ensure maximum benefit. Some key examples are:

  • Permeable pavement built with underground cisterns, vaults, or other treatment devices
  • Permeable pavement used with irrigation stormwater reuse
  • Increased vegetation options at a site due to increased groundwater accessibility
  • Systems in which other infiltration methods are difficult to achieve or may cause detrimental effects

Different types of permeable pavement include:

  • Interlocking pavers
  • Pervious concrete
  • Porous asphalt
  • Plastic grid pavers

—insert pictures of permeable pavement types--

With this in mind, permeable pavement can also be used to increase the safety of a site as it has been shown to increase traction for roadways during adverse weather and when used in outdoor sporting courts such as tennis and basketball, it can help prevent injuries by reducing the water that pools on the site.

For more information on how permeable pavements work please click here.

Green Infrastructure benefits of infiltration practices

Water quality: Pollutants are removed through stormwater runoff reduction when permeable pavement is used. This allows for vegetation and biota growth, vegetative filtering, and soil adsorption when rainfall events occur at the site.

Water quantity and hydrology: Reduction in total water volume movement and retardation of peak flow from rainfall events. Helps protect from downstream flooding and can be used in conjunction with reuse systems to reduce required water consumption for onsite irrigation. Infiltration also will recharge local groundwater.

Energy: Main energy savings comes from reduced energy requirements for wastewater treatment.

Air quality: Benefits are largely indirect, such as carbon sequestration.

Climate resiliency: Alleviates the impact on flooding, saves water through reuse systems, reduction of downstream pollutant loading

Habitat improvement: Reduction of soil erosion and increased soil stability promotes vegetation growth. Reduction in water temperature changes as a result of volume flow reduction. Retention of water on site helps ensure available water for vegetation and wildlife.

Community livability: Well designed permeable pavement practices helps to protect recreation sites for people by ensuring safe and healthy access to water sources. Water quality benefits from permeable pavement promote healthy water sources for diverse vegetation growth. This diversity allows for more heterogeneous plant growth and if the water quality is good enough, gardening practices of the local community may not be impacted. Reduction in water on surface ways helps improve safety for driving and human use.

Health benefits: Reduction of nutrients, pathogens, metals, TSS, and phosphorus among others. Increased longevity for fish and wildlife in the area through the reduction of compounds that would be washed into waterways as rain runoff.

Economic benefits and savings: In addition to water quality and flood control benefits, properly installed permeable pavers can prevent downstream cleanup needs. Permeable pavement that benefits vegetation can increase property aesthetics that increase property value.