Green Infrastructure is an ecological planning and design approach to building, developing and restoring our communities using natural and built systems that mimic nature. By using trees, native vegetation and improving soil function, urban and rural areas can be better connected by green spaces, which is good news for watershed health. From a watershed perspective, resiliency is important to withstand extreme weather conditions, manage wet weather and reduce vulnerability of our ecosystems, which in turn, can play a big role in helping our communities become more sustainable.

Illinois River Watershed Land Use Map

The Illinois River Watershed has a growing urban area, Green Infrastructure helps to increase green spaces and manage stormwater

Photo Credit: Illinois River Watershed Partnership

 

Two main concerns that affect watershed health are water quality and water quantity. Both of these are directly related to stormwater runoff, which is excess rain water that does not, or is not able to, soak into the ground. Roads, parking lots and rooftops are examples of impervious surfaces that increase stormwater runoff. Water quality can be affected by excess nutrients, sediment, oil/grease and trash. Water quantity concerns include erosion and flooding.

Green infrastructure can help improve both water quality and water quantity and maintain healthy hydrologic cycles. The most crucial areas to protect and restore are Riparian Zones along our rivers, lakes and streams. However, it is equally important to enhance stormwater infiltration within urban areas as well.

 

Green Infrastructure Projects

Elements of Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development

Photo Credit: Illinois River Watershed Partnership

 

Low Impact Development (LID) is a part of Green Infrastructure, using smart stormwater design for new development or retrofits. LID techniques can include rain water harvesting, pervious paving, tree wells, vegetated walls and green roofs, phosphorous removal structures and rain gardens/bioswales.

One of the greatest challenges within urban areas is the aging of current infrastructure, such as underground pipes and sewers created to manage stormwater. Using green infrastructure and Low Impact Development techniques to replace deteriorating systems not only helps to manage stormwater efficiently, but has many additional benefits including lower costs, easier management, increased property values, community beautification, positive economical impacts and increased habitat areas for wildlife. (U.S. EPA)

Green Street

Green Streets reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality

Photo Credit: US Environmental Protection Agency

 

This is an introduction to a series of posts that will explore some of the Best Management Practices (BMPs) of Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development for both urban and rural applications. The Illinois River Watershed Partnership is currently working with our local cities, counties and organizations to implement green infrastructure and LID elements within the Illinois River Watershed. Watch for these demonstration projects in public spaces to see first-hand stormwater management in action!

The Illinois River Watershed Partnership works to improve and restore the Illinois River Watershed through public education, water quality monitoring, and conservation/restoration projects. Check out our website for current events that continue to educate stakeholders of the Illinois River Watershed about Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development, as well as events that offer volunteer opportunities to make a positive difference!

 

Additional Resources:

IRWP: Rain Garden Project Locations

EPA: Green Infrastructure Cost-Benefit Resources

IRWP: Challenges of Water Resource Management

 

Related Posts:

5 for 5: Five Green Infrastructure Features at Five Razorback Greenway Trailheads

Water Proof: Watershed Management for the Future

Water Proof: Tackling Wicked Problems