Definition- Breakingbad1820

Is Green Infrastructure Enough?

Water pollution is an enormous worldwide crisis, and there have been no successful full-scale undertakings to stop pollution from entering our waterways. Implementing green technology within municipalities’ stormwater drains is vital to help prevent harmful pollutants from staying out of our water systems. 

Water pollution is predominantly caused by stormwater runoff. After a large storm has occurred, the water must go somewhere. As it flows to our nearest body of water, either by a water channel or stormwater pipes, it picks up harmful pollutants such as oil, trash, bacteria, and heavy metals. Most of the time, this water goes untreated and affects the marine life residing in the body of water where the stormwater is being relocated too. However, the introduction of stormwater management allows researchers and engineers to help protect all aspects of nature without disrupting it furthermore. 

Stormwater management is the practice of collecting runoff from roads and parking lots and dispersing it elsewhere where there is less risk of flooding or causing damage. Gray infrastructure is a fancy term often used for stormwater management. Gray infrastructure often includes tunnels, gutters, and pipes that bring our stormwater to the nearest body of water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, also known as the EPA, declares that our gray infrastructure is aging quickly and can no longer manage large volumes of stormwater. As our population continues to expand rapidly, new measures must be executed. Many municipalities across America are starting to execute small-scale green infrastructure projects to work alongside existing gray infrastructure. 

Green infrastructure is the ability to incorporate natural aids like soil systems, permeable pavements, and plants to help reduce the amount of unfiltered water entering our environment. Green infrastructure allows both the environment and engineered systems to work together to help manage stormwater mimicking the water cycle. Green infrastructure can be applied on small and large scales. Not only does it provide a healthy ecosystem that surrounds but it provides many benefits for humans and enhances the quality of life. 

Many towns are stuck in the past and still utilize gray infrastructure installed hundreds of years ago. Some municipalities still have combined systems where wastewater and stormwater are mixed into one pipe instead of having separate pipes. Philadelphia’s water department states, “Waterways where a combined sewer outfall is overflowing or has overflowed in the last 24 hours are unsafe for any type of recreation.” This is an example of what happens when towns still use combined sewer systems. Implementing green infrastructure/technology within municipalities would allow water to be processed without the threat of it backing up into our water treatment plants, causing a significant disaster.

According to the City of Carmel Engineering Department, more than 60% of water pollution comes from trash and litter. Following this fact, all drains that lead to underground stormwater passageways must include appropriately maintained filters. They would be hung from the inside of the storm drain and act like a coffee filter focusing on objects like trash and large debris that may have fallen during a storm. The public works of the specified municipality will check this filter once a week, ensuring the drain functions properly and is clear of any debris the filter may have caught. This system will allow most trash and debris to stay clear of our waterways, but that is not all. 

Next, all stormwater drains within a street ( no parking lots) must include some aspect of nature. It is up to the municipality to decide whether a tree or a small flower garden is better suited for the area. Claudiu CICEA, author of “Green Spaces And Public Health In Urban Areas,” says urban green spaces promote a healthier lifestyle by encouraging walking, running, and other activities. Urban spaces also increase social inclusion by promoting social contact between people and cultural events like festivals and theatre events. Requiring plants to be planted near storm drains not only does it help the social life within, but it is also an easy way to transform a town into a green space. 

Belowground, all stormwater pipes must be redirected to a facility within the municipality, allowing users to reuse this water for washing cars, watering plants, doing laundry, etc. The facility would then process this water to be safe for these activities but does not have to meet the safety standards of clean drinking water. This will allow the facility to use fewer resources like chemicals and energy since, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, nationwide, municipal wastewater treatment plants are estimated to consume 30 terawatts of electricity. This equates to about $2 billion in annual costs. Electricity alone for operating a stormwater treatment plant consumes 25-40% of a municipalities budget. Providing this system to town residents will allow residents to repurpose their water and even save on their water bills.    

From a larger standpoint, implementing permeable surfaces throughout a town will significantly decrease the number of pollutants infiltrating our water systems. Permeable concrete comes in many forms, like grass and aggravated pavements, that allow water filtration instead of creating runoff like impervious surfaces, which can not be penetrated by water. Towns could implement this practice within and include reservoirs under the pavement. The reservoir would be able to hold and maintain the water and slowly release it when it is safe to do so. Towns could also reuse this water and offer it to their community members. A permeable surface like grass will help naturally filter harmful pollutants before they ever touch our waterways. The Federal Highway Administration states that these systems remove 35% phosphorus and 30% nitrogen. However, these systems have issues filtering out dissolved chemicals, metals, and salts. 

Introducing green technology will provide towns with many solutions for their stormwater management. Not only does it propose new practices to upgrade existing gray infrastructure that is outdated, but it also allows nature to start surrounding cities again. Towns are known for wiping out what once was a forest to develop their town without caring about what habitats they are destroying.

References List

Earth’s freshwater. National Geographic Society. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2022, from 

Energy Data Management Manual for the Wastewater Treatment Sector. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2022, from 

Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). EPA. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from 

Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). EPA. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from 

Pavements. U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2022, from 

Water pollution what’s the problem with litter? – Indiana. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2022, from 

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