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)

Note to Reader:

Forest Trends works to conserve forests and other ecosystems through the creation and wide adoption of a range of environmental finance, market, and other payment and incentive mechanisms. Beginning in 1996, a small group of leaders from the forest industry, philanthropic community, and environmental groups began to meet to consider the array of challenges facing forest conservation and to identify common ground. 

In 1998, the group agreed on an organizational model for the new organization. Forest Trends would be a small, nimble, and responsive non-profit organization with three principal roles: convening market players to advance market transformations, generating and disseminating critical information to market players, and facilitating deals between different critical links in the value chains of new forestry.

Our forests, wetlands, urban green spaces, and sustainably-managed farms and ranches provide clean and reliable water for most of the world’s urbanites, yet they are often treated as little more than scenic intervals between cities. To save them, we should view them as real assets, just as valuable as our roads, dams, dykes, and wastewater treatment plants, argues Jan Cassen.

Jan Cassin is Director of Forest Trends’ Water Initiative, where she leads the organization’s work on scaling nature-based solutions for sustainable water management.

Incorporating Green Infrastructure into Our Cities

“Green infrastructure is an essential component of managing risks to people and property from extreme weather events,” wrote Jan Cassin in an online article published by Ecosystem Marketplace, a Forest Trends initiative.

“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.”

A city’s critical green infrastructure is not just in the city

“Cities and water utilities have a long history of protecting forests, wetlands, and farmland outside of their boundaries to protect drinking water sources. Seattle’s Cedar River Watershed, and New York City’s agreement with farmers in the Catskills watershed are two well-known examples,” continued Jan Cassin.

“Other aspects of urban resilience should encourage cities to look outside their boundaries as well, to the landscapes that provide not only water security, but food security and climate mitigation. Broadening our view outward from the city itself can also strengthen social aspects of resilience between cities and surrounding rural areas.”

What can we do to re-imagine infrastructure?

“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? There are a number of innovations that can move us in this direction,” stated Jan Cassins.

“Cities never own or control all of the green infrastructure from which they benefit. Taking full advantage of the resilience benefits of green infrastructure will require cities to forge new partnerships and work with a more diverse group of urban and rural stakeholders. This in itself can build stronger social bonds and reveal shared interests across our existing social divides.

“As we keep the conversation going on new infrastructure investments, it’s time to design smarter 21st century systems that restore and maintain green infrastructure as a critical component of urban resilience and vitality – delivering for all of us on water security, jobs, climate resilience, and healthier communities,” concluded Jan Cassin.

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a PDF copy of Incorporating Green Infrastructure into Our Cities