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.
COLOUR COORDINATING: “It’s time to design smarter 21st century systems that restore and maintain green infrastructure as a critical component of urban resilience and vitality,” says Jan Cassin, Water Initiative Director, Forest Trends Foundation (September 2019)
“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 number of innovations can move us in this direction,” states Jan Cassin. “Cities and their utilities should embrace natural asset management. In the same way that well-managed utilities strategically assess their gray assets, we can evaluate our green infrastructure base.”
FLASHBACK TO 1969: “The Cuyahoga River caught fire 50 years ago. It inspired a movement,” wrote Tim Folger in a National Geographic retrospective
“On June 22, 1969, there hadn’t been any fish—or any other living things—in its waters for decades. On that day the river was burning,” wrote Tim Folger. “It would turn out to be a cleansing fire, one that became a potent symbol for the nascent environmental movement. Within a few years the U.S. had enacted laws that would have a dramatic impact on the environment, including the Cuyahoga and other rivers. The fire started around noon, when a spark from a train crossing a bridge fell into the toxic stew of industrial waste on the river’s surface.”
URBAN TREE CANOPY INTERCEPTS RAINWATER: What does a community named Tree City USA for 25 years running, brimming with 13,000 trees need?
“Walla Walla City Council has agreed to tap into the city’s stormwater utility fund — following a trend set by a number of Pacific Northwest communities — to pay for upkeep of street trees and other ‘green infrastructure,.” wrote Dian Ver Valen. “The ordinance makes the city’s urban forest and green infrastructure, including dozens of green basins and swales that work as bio-filters for stormwater throughout the city, an official part of the stormwater system.”
URBAN DESIGN & THE PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: “The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he met with Comox Town Council to present the 8th in the Watershed Case Profile Series (September 2019)
“For the past decade, elected representatives and staff in the Town of Comox have quietly and without much fanfare been on a journey,” states Kim Stephens. “The Town’s journey is ongoing, and involves building blocks. This Watershed Case Profile takes stock of milestone moments along the way, with a focus on lessons that can be replicated. The Partnership has identified the Town of Comox as a ‘beacon of hope’ because of the precedents it has established when implementing the twin pillars of the whole-system, water balance approach to land development.”
DESIGN WITH NATURE: “We lost sight on how to work with nature. Using natural systems, however, it is possible to help cities adapt to climate change,” says Dr. Laura Wendling, an urban scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
“We know nature-based solutions are really good at helping cities. But) we don’t have a really good handle on how to best place nature-based solutions to get the greatest benefit,” said Laura Wendling. “Ultimately we need to have cities that are more liveable, more resilient to environment and social perturbations and nature-based solutions provide us that buffering capacity (to cope),” Dr. Wendling is the technical coordinator of UNaLab, a project looking to get the information needed to convince more cities to greenlight nature-based solutions.
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.