News / 9.25.14

What is Green Infrastructure?

Interest is growing in Green Infrastructure practices as planners, researchers, and engineers become more aware of benefits in adding sustainable green practices to existing “gray” (conventional) systems.

As stated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Green Infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to effectively manage water and create healthier urban environments. At the scale of a city or county, green infrastructure refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provides habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water. At the scale of a neighborhood or site, green infrastructure refers to stormwater management systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water.

The conventional approach for storm water management is to capture it and transfer it as quickly as possible to the nearest waterway or treatment plant. In this way stormwater carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants, degrading the quality of the receiving waters. Higher flow rates can also cause erosion and flooding.

The Green Infrastructure mechanism lets particulates settle and water infiltrate the ground. Aeration, plants and bacteria will remove pollutants. Common Green infrastructure tools are:

  • Bioswales
  • Bioinfiltration basins
  • Permeable paving
  • Green streets and alleys
  • Green parking
  • Planter boxes
  • Downspout disconnection
  • Green roofs
  • Urban tree canopy
  • Rain gardens
  • Water harvesting
  • Stream day lighting
  • Land conservation


Green Infrastructure is a cost-effective and resilient approach to our water infrastructure need that provides many community benefits:

  • Reduces polluted water in to the sewer system
  • Does not rely on hard infrastructure
  • Reduces carbon dioxide
  • Improves natural habitat
  • Improves community livability
  • Take advantage of natural areas
  • Energy and Climate change
  • Possible funding

Interest is growing in Green Infrastructure practices as planners, researchers, and engineers become more aware of benefits in adding sustainable green practices to existing “gray” (conventional) systems.

The EPA has identified the barriers that confront municipalities, developers, and engineers in adopting green infrastructure approaches and suggests some strategies to overcome them. Click here to learn more.