What is “Green Infrastructure”? – Looking back to understand the origin, meaning and use of the term in British Columbia
“Two complementary strategies can ‘green’ a community and its infrastructure: first, preserving as much as possible of the natural green infrastructure; and secondly, promoting designs that soften the footprint of development,” wrote Susan Rutherford. “Green infrastructure design is engineering design that takes a ‘design with nature’ approach, to both mitigate the potential impacts of existing and future development and growth and to provide valuable services.”
“The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is the keeper of the GIP legacy,” observes Paul Ham, a Past-Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership
“I see my years of chairing the Green Infrastructure Partnership as helping to get the ball rolling and ideas disseminated, on green infrastructure, all of which has subsequently been taken up by others to a much greater degree of implementation and success. Our efforts a decade ago moved the state of-the-art of green infrastructure to a more mainstream level,” said Paul Ham.
BLUE AND GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: Vietnam has been selected as the study location for assessing effectiveness of eco-friendly flood schemes because its low-lying coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to increased flood risk due to rapid urbanisation and climate change
“In the last few decades approaches to dealing with flood risk in urban areas have typically preferred the adoption of hard infrastructure like dykes, concrete barriers and raised structures – all of which are costly to build and maintain, and may have adverse environmental impacts locally and further downstream,” stated Dr. Lee Bosher. “Loughborough University is supporting the work of the University of Stirling in assessing the role of natural capital and ascertaining the added economic value that alternative BGI measures for flood defence and mitigation can provide.”
FLASHBACK TO 2013: Massive floods in Alberta and in the Toronto region provided the same kind of wake-up call that B.C. got in 2003, when it was hit by wild fires and drought (article published in the Globe & Mail newspaper, July 2013)
“In Canada, water has surpassed fire to become the leading cause of property damage, and now costs insurers about $1.7-billion a year, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. The budgets and stakes are enormous,” wrote Wendy Stueck. “Over the past decade or so, there has been increasing use of so-called ‘green’ infrastructure, which involves using vegetation and soil to disperse rainwater as it falls rather than funnelling it into a storm sewer.”
INCORPORATING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INTO OUR CITIES: “How can we move from viewing green infrastructure in terms of ‘nice to have’ extras, to putting green infrastructure at the center of how we value and invest in the infrastructure we need for vibrant, resilient cities?” – a question posed by Jan Cassin, Water Initiative Director, Forest Trends Foundation (July 2019)
“Green infrastructure reduces risks to gray infrastructure from hazards such as flooding and wildfire. It improves the performance and reduces the costs of operating gray water infrastructure when the two are integrated. In some cases, green infrastructure can be a more cost-effective alternative than gray. No one is currently bothering to grade our green infrastructure, yet keeping this infrastructure healthy is important to everyone in the US,” stated Jan Cassin.
Truly Sustainable Cities Are All About Balance: “Smart urban growth hailed by global organizations is not always a smart move for nature,” wrote Vitaliy Soloviy in an article posted by Sustainability Times
“Yet the successes of sustainable cities show that progress is possible. Effective planning and urban governance, as well as a focus on livability, are all essential elements of sustainable cities. Emerging sustainable technologies promise a thrilling future. Still, even the most developed sustainable cities of tomorrow will have a few things to learn from ecovillages and slow cities that have already learned to live sustainably in the now,” wrote Vitaliy Soloviy .
REALITY CHECK FOR MAINTAINING THE NATURAL WATER BALANCE IN URBAN AREAS: About 5.5% of developed land in the continental United States is covered by impervious parking lots! – a research finding by US Geological Survey
There were more than 275 million registered motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2018. Accommodating that number of vehicles requires an enormous network of parking lots, the vast majority of which are made of impervious pavement that rainwater cannot infiltrate. Until now, researchers have been unable to gauge the full extent of impervious parking lot coverage in a scientifically sound way. Findings from the model could be valuable for urban planners and watershed managers as they plan new developments or retrofit existing areas where runoff pollution is a major issue, according to James Falcone of the USGS.
Researchers Link Climate Change to Urban and Suburban Stormwater Management: “What we design now is in place for 20 or 30 years, so we should design it with future climate conditions in mind as opposed to what the past rain has looked like,” said Dr. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman, University of Maryland
“This work puts emphasis on what’s happening in local upland spaces that has immediate implications for the people who are living in these watersheds for future flood mitigation, but connects this to the broader issues of how increased runoff links to the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” stated Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman. “It is really the bigger rain events where we are seeing things not work as well, and that’s concerning partly because we know that with climate change these more intense events are going to become more common.”
BREAKING DOWN SILOS: “If asset management for sustainable service delivery is so simple and logical, why are we not getting it?” asks Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC (July 2019)
“Different generations have different perspectives because of the way they grew up which formed beliefs and thinking patterns. This message really brings to light that different audiences will resonate with different messages in different ways,” wrote Wally Wells for an article co-authored with Kim Stephens and Cory Stivell. “Good messaging is what provides an opportunity to change a perspective which in turn aspires action. So maybe the question is: Are you considering your different audiences and ‘generational ways of thinking in your messaging process and content?’ If not, why not?”
BROOKLYN CREEK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “The asset that we call Brooklyn Creek watershed stands testament to the power of partnerships and the value derived from those relationships,” stated Al Fraser, Town of Comox, in a session on ‘Beacons of Hope’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (watch on YouTube)
“My story is both a personal and collective journey in keeping with the partnership theme; and ultimately building and nurturing relationships along the way,” stated Al Fraser, Superintendent of Parks. “When I look at the definition of partnership, and put it into the context of how it applies to the Brooklyn Creek storyline, the word that resonates most with me is participation. The participation that we have seen in Brooklyn Creek, and that continues to grow, is quite staggering. What we see today is truly a natural and remarkable community asset. It is loved and cared for by many.”
MOVING TOWARDS RESTORATIVE LAND DEVELOPMENT: “It is not a sprint. We are in it for the long haul; and we all need to recognize that we are in it for the long haul. I wonder what Ian McHarg would think if he could be with us today, 50 years after he wrote Design with Nature,” stated Bill Derry when he delivered the opening keynote on behalf of Kitsap County’s Chris May, Surface & Stormwater Division Director, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium
The ‘salmon crisis’ in the 1990s was the driver for pioneer research at Washington State University that correlated land use changes with impacts on stream health. The resulting science-based understanding opened the door to the Water Balance approach to rainwater management in BC. “Data are fine, but you must be able to show decision-makers and the public that we are making a difference and being cost-effective with funding,” stated Bill Derry. “You must be able to develop and tell stories. If you can tell stories well, that is how to make the biggest difference.”
ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “One should view EAP as representing one point along a ‘green infrastructure continuum’. It is the latest evolution in an ongoing process in British Columbia that had its genesis in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, when providing historical context for green infrastructure ideas and practices
“EAP embodies what has been learned since 1998,” stated Tim Pringle. “EAP uses the word ‘accounting’ in the sense of taking stock and understanding the worth of ecological services as the community uses them. Holding up this mirror reflects opportunities taken or missed and risks avoided or incurred. It asks the question; how well are we doing? This is a social perspective on the natural commons and the constructed commons. Residents and property owners use and expect to use both of these assets to support quality of life and property enjoyment.”