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New urban stormwater policies treat rainwater as a resource

Codes and Standards

New urban stormwater policies treat rainwater as a resource

Replacing pavement with green spaces reduces runoff, recharges aquifers


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | March 18, 2024
Image by Petra from Pixabay

Image by Petra from Pixabay

U.S. cities are revamping how they handle stormwater to reduce flooding and capture rainfall and recharge aquifers.

New policies reflect a change in mindset from treating stormwater as a nuisance to be quickly diverted away to capturing it as a resource. U.S. urban areas generate an estimated 59.5 million acre-feet of stormwater runoff per year on average, equal to 53 billion gallons a day. That much water is equal to 93% of the country’s total municipal and industrial water use.

In Los Angeles, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land has been removing impervious surfaces in alleys and school grounds and replacing asphalt with natural infrastructure, including trees and pervious surfaces.

In the eastern part of the country where rainfall is more plentiful, cities including New York and Pittsburgh are installing green solutions such as rain gardens and bioswales. Cities are also instituting stormwater fees, charging landowners based on the area of impervious surfaces on a property. More cities are also using permeable pavers for sidewalks and parking lots.

Recharging aquifers via more permeable surface areas not only makes more groundwater available, but it also helps prevent land subsidence that can cause buildings to slowly sink.

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