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Cooper Akeson is a Sonoma State University graduate with a BA in planning for sustainable communities. Cooper aims to use his planning knowledge to help improve the walkability and active transportation aspects of cities across the Nation. 

Green Infrastructure for Cities

As the earth’s population grows, the amount of pollution that enters our stormwater increases as well. This article discusses how green infrastructure benefits the health of a city, and also mentions a way to make sustainable development desirable to developers. 

Green infrastructure uses the earth's natural systems to filter stormwater, which means more stormwater is absorbed into the soil and less ends up in the sewer system. Gray infrastructure on the other hand collects and conveys stormwater away from where it is falling and transports it to a treatment plant. 

Stormwater run-off is the single largest source of water pollution in the United States. More than 700 cities across the nation are legally required to create new infrastructure to mitigate the amount of stormwater runoff that occurs. Depending on what will be more beneficial, a city can choose to use either green or grey infrastructure when implementing these mitigation measures.

The article's focus is specifically on The District of Columbia’s sewer systems, which are among some of the oldest in the country. The decrepit sewer system will overflow during moderate rain, sending waste and pollution into the streets and the nearby watershed. This pollution and waste destroys aquatic life in the Chesapeake Bay, and subsequently harms businesses that rely on the bay. Seafood industries will struggle because the fish and crabs they collect will be too full of pollutants for safe consumption. Other businesses will be harmed too, recreational boating & any other tourist attraction near the water will see reduced profits because people have little interest in visiting a polluted bay.  

 Thankfully, the article mentions a potential solution to the problems surrounding the District of Columbia’s sewer system. An American Fortune Global 500 company called Prudential Financial is investing nearly two billion dollars toward the creation of a new joint enterprise, managed by Encourage Capital & NatureVest. This joint venture has been deemed the Stormwater LLC (DS), and it was created to start a Stormwater Retention Credit program, which would allow the trading of stormwater credits. Developers can now mitigate stormwater runoff by buying credits from designs that reduce stormwater runoff offsite; things like bioswales, green roofs, and permeable surfaces are all good examples. One of the greatest benefits to this program is that areas with low property values now have the potential for investments from the offsite trading. It would be very feasible for a developer to add some bioswales in a low income area that is in need of more permeable surfaces in order to earn stormwater retention credits.

Aside from stormwater filtration, these green infrastructure methods provide additional community benefits as well. The development of bioswales and other green infrastructure concepts may bring plant life to areas that were formerly lacking in vegetation, which will subsequently increase the local populations well being. I support this program fully. It’s an intelligent way for developers to get what they desire, while simultaneously providing benefits to local people and wildlife.

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