Stormwater runoff has been a societal problem for thousands of years, dating all the way back to the Bronze Age when ancient Greeks started to develop solutions to help offset the increase in impervious surfaces. Although civilization has made many advances since then, the concepts of stormwater runoff collection and conveyance have remained the mostly same – capture the flow and take it elsewhere. What once was thought of as a basic solution has now become problematic, as the amount of impervious surface has dramatically increased with the growth of our communities. This has caused our water quality to diminish over time while putting a huge strain on our local stormwater systems.
One of the unique opportunities I have had at TREKK has been addressing this issue using non-traditional stormwater systems that are slowly being implemented in cities across the United States. Instead of capturing flow and taking it away as quickly as possible, green infrastructure (GI) takes a different approach – capture and infiltrate the stormwater runoff to improve water quality and pipe capacity and increase aesthetic appeal.
Green infrastructure includes a variety of drainage solutions, such as pavers, rain gardens, infiltration basins, and stormwater street trees. The concept behind GI is to collect pollutants, chemicals, and other contaminants before they enter the stormwater system, thus improving the water quality. This is achieved by capturing the stormwater runoff and storing it until can infiltrate into the ground. The stormwater runoff collected by GI reduces the amount entering the stormwater system, therefore reducing capacity issues to existing stormwater systems.
Perhaps one of the underrated aspects of green infrastructure is the beautification it can provide communities. Instead of large, unattractive concrete catch basins, GI provides plants and trees as an alternative method.
While traditional “gray” stormwater still plays a major role in conveying stormwater runoff, green infrastructure is a great compliment that provides many benefits. While some disconnect still remains between gray and green solutions, TREKK has been proactive in finding innovative stormwater runoff solutions to improve lives in our local communities.
Josh Tinkey, PE, ENV SP