8/13/09

New Study on Green Infrastructure to Assess Stormwater Management

Green roof tops are sprouting up around Chicago. But what is the most useful way to incorporate green infrastructure into urban settings? Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Environmental Planning Specialist Martin Jaffe recently received a $300,000 grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to assess the use of green infrastructure for urban stormwater management in Illinois.

Green infrastructure is a growing movement toward sustainable, environmentally-friendly approaches to land use planning. Popular practices include rain gardens, permeable pavements, and green roofs, which seek to maximize on natural resources while maintaining environmental health. Jaffe’s team will be collecting data and monitoring the performance of such practices in urban environments.

"This study should help state officials decide which green infrastructure proposals ought to be funded and which should be given lower priority, based on the proven effectiveness of the various best management practices in different settings," said Jaffe, who is also an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jaffe’s results will also be used by IISG to develop a plan to inform local officials, municipal engineers, and planners about the proper role of green infrastructure in urban stormwater management.

The 18-month grant is the result of recent legislation, mandating a statewide study of green infrastructure in Illinois. Jaffe’s co-principal investigators will be studying the effect of wetlands in various landscapes on pollution control.

This study also coincidentally comes on the heels of a rise in flood peaks in Chicago metropolitan areas, due to growing urbanization, as documented by IISG-funded research by Momcilo Markus, Illinois State Water Survey.

“We are not focused on urban flood peaks,” Jaffe said. “However, flood peaks have a complex relationship to green infrastructure. Some green infrastructure best management practices, such as wetlands, can provide flood storage, and practices encouraging infiltration and on-site storage can potentially reduce such peaks through minimizing runoff to surface waters.”

The study’s consultants include Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, who will be examining the legal standards of green infrastructure in urban stormwater management and whether measures used in the study will be transferable to downstate rural counties and small towns.

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