Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Stormwater Management– Have a Plan

A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure

Flooded City

Flooded city street

By Tom Barrett

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink!” Do you remember this from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge? In the story, the Mariner is lost at sea with a dead albatross around his neck, and although surrounded by water, he is dying of thirst because the ocean water is undrinkable. At the end of the story, the Mariner awakes the next morning “a sadder and a wiser man.”

Today in America we face a similar situation. There are over 42,000 impaired waterways in the United States. An ‘impaired waterway’ is a lake, river, stream or estuary that is too polluted to meet water quality standards. An ‘impaired waterway’ is the nice way of saying the water is dangerous to wildlife and human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that as much as 40% of our nation’s lakes, rivers, and streams are not safe for swimming, fishing, or drinking. Incredibly in some states, over 80% of the waterways are not safe for these activities.

Impaired Waters Listed By State

Alabama color.gif283
Alaska color.gif35
American Samoa color.gif44
Arizona color.gif79
Arkansas color.gif225
California color.gif1,021
Colorado color.gif244
Connecticut color.gif461
Delaware color.gif101
District Of Columbia color.gif36
Florida color.gif2,292
Georgia color.gif215
Guam color.gif47
Hawaii color.gif309
Idaho color.gif916
Illinois color.gif1,057
Indiana color.gif1,836
Iowa color.gif480
Kansas color.gif1,372
Kentucky color.gif1,300
Louisiana color.gif236
Maine color.gif114
Maryland color.gif184
Massachusetts color.gif720
Michigan color.gif2,352
Minnesota color.gif1,144
Mississippi color.gif229
Missouri color.gif257
Montana color.gif584
N. Mariana Islands color.gif24
Nebraska color.gif330
Nevada color.gif215
New Hampshire color.gif1,449
New Jersey color.gif716
New Mexico color.gif209
New York color.gif1,543
North Carolina color.gif1,270
North Dakota color.gif201
Ohio color.gif267
Oklahoma color.gif657
Oregon color.gif1,397
Pennsylvania color.gif6,957
Puerto Rico color.gif165
Rhode Island color.gif120
South Carolina color.gif961
South Dakota color.gif155
Tennessee color.gif1,028
Texas color.gif719
Utah color.gif156
Vermont color.gif104
Virgin Islands color.gif87
Virginia color.gif1,523
Washington color.gif2,420
West Virginia color.gif1,097
Wisconsin color.gif593
Wyoming color.gif107

Total: 42,643 impaired waters

(Source: US EPA –  – Watershed Assessment, Tracking & Environmental Result)

Over the last forty-five years we have come a long way in improving water quality. In the 1960’s Johnny Carson joked that he took a walk on the Hudson River. The Hudson River was so polluted you could almost walk on it. In 1968 the Cuyahoga River in Northeast Ohio caught fire for the last time. Since 1868, the Cuyahoga River, made famous by being the “river that caught fire,” actually caught fire 13 times. These two impaired waterways helped propel the environmental movement. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed into law and the task of cleaning up our polluted waterways began. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the quality of our nation’s waters by preventing point and nonpoint source pollution. Overall, we have done a great job of fixing point source pollution, or single identifiable source, problems.

 Nonpoint Source Pollution

Toxic Algae Bloom

Toxic algae bloom from stormwater runoff

If this is the case, why are over 40% of our lakes, rivers, and streams still unsafe for swimming, fishing, or drinking? The main culprit is nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is the greatest threat to water quality in our nation, i.e. stormwater. When it rains, the stormwater is rapidly collected, piped, and swiftly dumped into the closest waterway. Stormwater, as it travels across the surface of the land, carries with it all the pollutants from the landscape. In agricultural landscapes, excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides are concentrated in the nearest body of water.

In urban areas, in addition to lawn chemicals, all the oils, grease, salts, and heavy metals from our roadways are deposited in our local waterways. In many urban areas, our stormwater systems are combined with our sewerage systems. When a stormwater surge occurs, the sewage system is not large enough to handle the volume of water from the rainfall. Rainwater mixed with sewer water overflows, untreated, into the nearest local waterway. In many cites, a sewage overflow may occur with as little as one-fourth inch of rain. Take for example Indianapolis, Indiana, where the city experiences 50 to 60 overflow events every year.

In the past, civil engineers would say, “The solution to pollution is dilution.” This meaning, if you had enough clean water running through the system, a little bit of pollution would not be noticeable. There is a lot of evidence that this assumption is grossly inaccurate.

We have reached our limit in diluting the pollution we create by dumping our wastewater into our local waterways. Today, the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is the size of Connecticut. The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico almost completely devoid of any life because of a lack of oxygen in the water. The dead zone is a direct result of fertilizer runoff from the rivers and streams upstream from the Gulf. The excessive fertilizer runoff results in algae blooms. When the algae die, the process of decomposition consumes oxygen, creating the oxygen depleted “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. With advancements in green infrastructure, we have an opportunity to clean up our waterways and enhance our environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed extensive research demonstrating that green or more natural solutions to stormwater runoff are less expensive than conventional grey stormwater solutions. Additionally, green stormwater solutions create an array of broader benefits for local economies and the environment. From an environmental standpoint, instead of trying to minimize the impact we have on the environment we can actually enhance our environment through the utilization of living plants when creating green infrastructure. We have an opportunity to make our environment better for our children and their children.

Green infrastructure is a natural approach to stormwater mitigation that brings nature back into the fold. Before urban and agricultural development, in a deciduous hardwood forest or native prairie, less than 1% of rainfall ran off the surface of the land into the local streams. In the natural hydrologic cycle, the continuous movement of water above and below the earth’s surface, 10% to 40% of rainfall would go into the ground and recharge our aquifers, 40% to 50% went back into our atmosphere as evapotranspiration, and 20% to 30% would go into an interflow layer of soil. The interflow layer of the soil, when undisturbed by human development, contains organic matter, microbes, and plant roots that would extend downward twelve to thirty feet or more. The plant roots and organic matter helped to maintain the porosity and permeability of the soil. This is the primary reason only 1% of rain would run off the surface of the native landscape directly into the nearest body of water. This interflow layer or topsoil layer of a native landscape acts like an old-fashioned wastewater treatment plant or a biologically balanced aquarium. As the stormwater drains into the interflow layer, the microbes in the soil clean the water of harmful pollutants. Eventually the interflow water travels downstream into the nearest waterway. The stormwater enters the local waterway cleanly and slowly.

 Stream Bank Erosion

Agricultural Runoff

Non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff.

Another problem with our current grey infrastructure approach to stormwater management is stream bank erosion. To prevent flooding, we rapidly collect rainwater, pipe it, and deposit it in the nearest body of water. The rapid collection of stormwater increases the velocity and volume of water in our local waterways.

The excessive flow of stormwater into our streams scours the stream banks increasing stream bank erosion. Stream bank erosion increases the sediment that streams carry, resulting in the loss of fertile bottomland, and a decrease in habitat for species on land and in the stream.

If you find yourself in a forest during a rain, you will notice immediately that you hardly get wet. The leaves of the trees slow the rain falling from the sky, slowly dropping the water onto the floor of the forest. When you walk through a native forest, you will also notice the forest floor feels spongy and soft. In an undisturbed native forest or prairie, the plant roots and soil organic matter maintain a soil structure that is loose, friable, and capable of absorbing a lot of rainwater. In contrast, today our urban landscapes runoff over 90% of the rainwater that falls from the sky; suburban landscapes rainfall runoff is over 60%; and even agricultural areas will runoff over 40% of the rainfall.

Over the last twenty years our impermeable surface area has increased by over 40%, mainly because of parking regulations and wider streets. Current site development techniques strip off almost all the topsoil and heavy construction equipment compacts the remaining subsoil to over 90%. When soils are compacted by mechanical forces the soil structured is destroyed. The result is reduced soil porosity that limits water infiltration. A soil that is 90% compacted has the consistency, density, and firmness of a gravel road.

These practices highly reduce rainwater absorption rates, even within intensively landscaped areas. With one-inch of rainfall, a 2,500 square foot roof will generate 1,500 gallons of water. On a one-quarter acre residential property, a one-inch rainfall will deliver almost 7,000 gallons of water. A city block of five acres will experience 135,000 gallons of water, or the equivalent of more than five average-sized swimming pools.

When you consider a watershed, the volume of water from a one-inch rainfall can easily exceed several million gallons of water. Unlike today, in the past most of this rainwater stayed on-site, with very little runoff into the local streams and waterways. As you start to understand the volume of water from stormwater and the impairments that have occurred due to our current land use practices, it becomes clear why the EPA has designated stormwater as the largest source of water pollution in America. In the recently released five-year strategic plan, the EPA designates protecting America’s water as second in priority, only surpassed by addressing climate change and improving air quality.

 Greening Our Grey Infrastructure

Green infrastructure

A bioswale creates a more natural approach to stormwater mitigation.

So where does green infrastructure fit in? The three primary concepts in developing a green infrastructure approach to stormwater are:

  1. Capture rainwater as close to the source as possible;
  2. Slow down rainwater flow rate; and
  3. Filter rainwater through absorption. In natural forest and native prairie areas rain is soaked into the land, filtered through the soil, and applied back into the landscape.

There are many tools used in developing green infrastructure. Rain gardens, bioswales, and infiltration planters use plant material to retain and filter rainwater. Permeable paving materials help to reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater while filtering out heavy metals, grease, and oils. Reconstructed wetlands, like naturally occurring wetlands, act like kidneys of the ecosystem. And planting trees and native grasses along stream banks can be more effective and less expensive than conventional stream armoring techniques of rock riprap and gabion cages.

Green infrastructure works best when it is combined with a comprehensive stormwater management plan based upon the existing watershed. Combining green infrastructure with existing grey infrastructure is the most cost effective solution to solving our nonpoint source pollution problems. American Rivers published a study three years ago, entitled The Value of Green Infrastructure, that found green infrastructure, when properly deployed, created more jobs for the longest period and for the least amount of money. Public education is crucial to the successful development and implementation of a comprehensive green infrastructure plan.

Rain Garden Construction

Rain garden under construction

Some of the best success stories come out of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Philadelphia where communities are working together taking a neighborhood approach to stormwater mitigation. The conventional approach to stormwater issues is to fix the problem where the problem occurs, at the point of convergence. We do not pay attention to the source of the problem, usually further upstream. We install a storm drain and connect it to the nearest stormwater or sewage pipe. After fifty years of taking this approach we find ourselves constructing sewage treatment systems and conveyance systems five times larger than needed so the current system can handle the stormwater with our antiqued sewerage treatment plants. Handling stormwater like sewer water is not only wasteful but it is extremely expensive.

If we take a watershed approach utilizing the tools of green infrastructure, stormwater is treated as close to the source as possible. The root problem is addressed on-site without expensive conveyance systems and oversized sewage treatment facilities. Handling stormwater as close to the source as possible requires a green infrastructure design solution as far upstream in the watershed as possible. If done correctly, this method has proven to be the most effective and usually least expensive means of mitigating stormwater.

Green Infrastructure in Practice

Stormwater Flow Map

Stormwater flow map

In a 50-year-old condominium complex, built next to a major creek, a huge stormwater issue was created that eroded the stream banks and threatened the structural foundation of several condominium units. Several years ago, an expensive and conventional gabion basket retaining wall was installed to stabilize the stream banks against further erosion. It was quickly discovered that this grey infrastructure approach only moved the problem further down stream.

After installing a test rain garden to reduce a flooding basement issue, the homeowners association was convinced of the effectiveness of green infrastructure. Subsequently, a green infrastructure plan was developed based upon stormwater received by each of four drainage basins or watersheds on their 78-acre parcel of land. It was discovered that most of the stormwater causing the problem was coming upstream past the property line. Working together with surrounding community neighbors proved to be the most cost effective way to deal with what could be a very expensive stormwater issue.

Stormwater Issue Map

Stormwater issue map

The completed green infrastructure plan developed for this condominium complex clearly identified how much stormwater volume needed to be handled. The perimeter of the property will be phase one of a ten-year plan. Subsequent phases of the plan, which are downstream from the initial phases, will be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of the green infrastructure solutions implemented in previous years. What was discovered during the development of this plan was that the further upstream we go to develop a stormwater solution the less expensive the solution is and the more effective it is to handle the larger volumes that converge downstream.

Planning Our Consequences

Ideally, the long-term goal of any green infrastructure plan is that no piece of property within a watershed or stormwater basin has any stormwater runoff. If zero stormwater runoff can be achieved, land use planning becomes a dynamic tool that addresses the largest source of pollution in America today. Developing a watershed plan utilizing green infrastructure design takes a completely unconventional approach to stormwater mitigation.

We are learning that green infrastructure mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure develops better filtration, filtration that we do not have in our conventional approach. Moreover, green infrastructure is often significantly less expensive than conventional grey infrastructure.

Natural Water Cycle Image

Natural water cycle

Grey infrastructure, although expensive, does an excellent job at reducing flooding. However, grey infrastructure fails miserably in reducing stormwater runoff and reducing pollution. Grey infrastructure works well for the 100-year rainfall events but does little for the frequent one-inch rainfall events. This is where green infrastructure shines. For the one- to three-inch rainfall events, green infrastructure works best. Combining green infrastructure with existing grey infrastructure utilizes the best of new technology with conventional technology, creating a system that is not only more effective by also more economical. This is the next step in an evolutionary approach to better understanding our environment and the future.

This new paradigm of understanding nature applies to stormwater mitigation, and many other environmental issues we currently face. As these new concepts are considered it is important to remember: in nature there is no good, there is no bad, there are only consequences.

Stormwater – A Watershed Plan for Green Infrastructure

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology

The Rain Garden at Chicago Center for Green Technology

Stormwater Mitigation Presentation at the Chicago Center for Green Technology

I had the pleasure of presenting “A Watershed Plan for Green Infrastructute” at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT) on Thursday, May 22nd. The audience realized that stormwater is everyone’s problem and, over the years we have polluted our waterways beyond what most of us realize.

Our current development techniques disrupt the natural hydrologic cycle. Filtration is the key to cleaning our stormwater.  Keeping rainfall on-site is the least expensive and most effective method to improving our environment

The highlight of the presentation was when Bryan Glosik, of the Chicago Center for Green Technology, led a tour of the sophisticated and natural stormwater management system at CCGT. Bryan did an excellent job of explaining the effectiveness of the rain gardens in mitigating the local stormwater problem.

Here is a copy of the presentation:

Bryan Glosik Portrait

Bryan Glosik, Chicago Center for Green Technology, Chicago, Illinois


Here are comments and feedback about the presentation:

Filtration is key. Water run off disrupt the water cycle. Keeping water in your yard is important.
– Stephen Meyer
The video was great.
The outside tour was my favorite part.
I like the combination of field trip, short video, lecture and case study.
– Armando Median Jr.
What can a small homeowner do?
– David Lindstrom
There are small things that I can do that will make a difference.
– Maureen McCabe

Sustainable Site Development – A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure Presentation In Chicago May 22, 2014

New Tools for Sustainable Site Development

A Watershed Approach to Green Infrastructure

Presentation by Tom Barrett


Thursday, May 22, 2014 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


The Chicago Center for Green Technology

445 N. Sacramento Blvd
(between Chicago Ave. and Lake St.)

Chicago, Illinois


AIS Continuing Eduction Units: 2

Register Here Button

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!” is the opening to this dynamic presentation focusing on solutions to Chicago’s stormwater problem.

“Stormwater is the leading cause of water pollution in America,” continues Tom Barrett, the presenter and owner of Green Water Infrastructure. This presentation focuses on developing sustainable solutions to water quality issues in the Chicago area. Mr Barrett’s approach utilizes a watershed and drainage basin study to stormwater mitigation.

Developing a comprehensive stormwater plan, when correctly prioritized, combines existing grey infrastructure with new technologies developed in green infrastructure, creating cost effective solutions to our water quality issues.

After an introduction about the problems stormwater creates, attendees will be given a walking tour of the grounds of the Center for Green Technology, and shown actual functional rain gardens and other sustainable solutions specifically mentioned in the presentation. Guided by Mr. Barrett himself, attendees are encouraged to ask questions and recognize first-hand the visible results of sustainable solution planning, execution, and growth.


“. . . best class at CCGT so far, rainwater data, new ideas, charts and stats, all the different ways I can use the rainwater for my home.”
” . . . great speaker, the positive outlook, no blame game, examples (drip system), knowledgeable, class got to participate.

Speaker’s Biography – Tom Barrett

Tom Barrett is an accomplished corporate growth and change agent with over thirty years of industry experience. Tom’s leadership experience, holding executive level positions, drives corporate revenue growth through change and innovation for business start-ups, corporate expansions, and divisional turnarounds.

Tom Barrett has been delivering energetic, dynamic presentations and training for over twenty years. These presentations empower people to become masters of change rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformational thinking.

Event Registration

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“Tom’s been a leader with smart water technologies, green roofs, rainwater harvesting and other emerging technologies well before they became buzzwords at water conferences. It’s impressive to work with Tom because he knows his stuff from the ground up.”

Jeff Carowitz, Strategic Force Marketing

What is Sustainable Development? Click Here to Read More

Where have all the Fish Gone?

By Kari Bedi and Tom Barrett

Did you know 40% of our fresh waterways are impaired (i.e. polluted)?

Fish Antique Pen and InkThis means the water is too dirty  for swimming, fishing or drinking. Plants, animals, and fish are disappearing from many rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. A waterway is impaired If it does not meet water quality standards of the Clean Water Act and the state. This means the waterway is polluted. The information is confusing but the problem is real. The problem is local as well as national. The problem will not go away without action.

Unintended Consequences of Our Unconscious Use of Resources

Fish species, along with other marine life and those that depend on it, worldwide are imperiled by:
  • Ocean acidification – due to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels
  • Overfishing
  • Warming water temperatures
  • Deoxygenation – due to run-off of fertilizers and sewage
  • Pollution – soil, nitrates, pesticides, toxic chemicals
  • Siltation/Erosion – which can add to toxic algae growth in rivers and lakes
Alex Rogers, professor of biology at Oxford University, said in regard to the health of our oceans: “We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

In nature there is no good; there is no evil; there are only consequences.”


Toxic Algae Bloom

Toxic algae bloom from stormwater runoff

Toxic algae blooms are flourishing under warming water temperatures and contaminated stormwater runoff. Growing evidence suggests toxins, which are colorless, odorless, and water soluble, may remain present in water bodies long after algae blooms have vanished; and more alarmingly, algae toxins potentially could become airborne. In September, an Ohio county faced a cyanobacteria contamination of their water system that forced the water supplier to warn customers not to drink water from the tap.


Heavy summer rains in south Florida set off a chain reaction that devastated three estuaries. The Army Corps of Engineers made the difficult decision to release billions of gallons of polluted water into surrounding estuaries instead of risking a breach of a fragile 80-year old dike after the rains overwhelmed Lake Okeechobee. The surrounding estuaries were devastated by the on-slot of freshwater from the lake skewing salinity, along with the polluted runoff from surrounding farms, ranches, septic tanks and golf courses. The disruption caused a burst of toxic algae to grow causing a perfect storm of environmental dangers.

The Tide is Turning Toward Resiliency with Green Infrastructure

With changes in our climate – wetter wet seasons and drier dry seasons – communities across the nation are undertaking green infrastructure plans and initiatives to protect local waterways from contamination. The EPA offers Green Infrastructure Case Studies for further understanding of how cities and towns have planned, designed, and implemented green infrastructure within their communities.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has embraced a Green Alley Program to convert more than 1,900 miles of asphalt/concrete alleys to 3,500 acres of permeable paving, with the goal of reducing stormwater by 80 percent.
Agricultural Runoff

Non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia developed the Green City, Clean Waters program, a 25-year infrastructure management program, to protect and enhance regional waterways by investing in green stormwater infrastructure, a call to revamp current impervious watershed hardscapes while meeting ecological restoration goals.

Groveland, Massachusetts

Even small communities with limited resources are taking action with stormwater management programs by creating stormwater committees, offering public education and outreach, and engaging community members in assistance with stormwater management and EPA compliance.

What We Know for Iowa

Per a 1995 survey conducted by Iowa State University, 90% of Iowans cite water quality as their number one environmental concern. Water pollution issues and solutions are complex because water quality is impacted by so many factors – land use, land formations, farming practices, and weather conditions, etc.
Per Iowa Association of Naturalists’ Iowa Water Pollution findings, 80% of all Iowans depend on groundwater for their drinking water. These underground aquifers are replenished by water seeping down through the soil from surface water supplies. Pollutants, from cities, industry, farm animals, and field runoff, are filtered out at varying degrees as surface water seeps through layers of soil, sand, and gravel.
Sewage overflow outlet

Sewage overflow outlet

For Iowa, soil erosion is the number one source of surface water pollution. The movement of soil into water supplies is called siltation. Erosion easily occurs when bare land is left to be exposed to wind or heavy rains. Primary sources of unprotected soil include agriculture, road ditches, and construction/building sites. Of course, along with the soil comes the pollutants in the soil that load stormwater runoff with nutrient-rich feces and various toxic chemicals.

Collaborating on Conscious Solutions for Water Improvement

The best solution of course is prevention. However, in the face of the grand challenge of changing our age-old practices to ease irreversible degradation and rejuvenate our ecosystems, there are actionable steps we can take now to improve upon the negative affects of contaminated runoff and soil erosion to our waterways.

Elements of Green Infrastructure

  • Native grasses and filter strips – dense root systems of native plantings help hold soil in place, filters out pollutants, improves absorption rate, and slows runoff
  • Bioswales – a drainage course with gently sloped sides designed to slow stormwater flow to trap silt and pollutants
  • Urban tree canopy – intercepts rainfall, reducing surface runoff
  • Greenstructure – urban green spaces designed for cleaner air and water, recreational and educational opportunities, and natural habitat networks
  • Permeable pavement – pervious materials that help control stormwater at the source, reduce runoff and provide filtration
  • Constructed and natural wetlands – act as a biofilter, removing sediments and pollutants
  • Green roofs – a form of low impact development, offers many benefits including stormwater management, improved air quality, and energy efficiency
  • Green alleys – incorporate permeable pavements, open bottom catch basins, high-albedo pavement to reflect sunlight and help reduce the urban heat island effect, and dark sky-compliant light fixtures to reduce light pollution
Green infrastructure

A bioswale creates a more natural approach to stormwater mitigation.

By weaving these natural processes into the built environment, green infrastructure offers both economical and ecological benefits to stormwater management. Not to mention further benefits including: flood mitigation, improved air quality, and support for local and regional biodiversity – supporting the return of fish populations.

Anthropogenic influences – like that from population growth, the energy industry, manufactured products, mining, transportation, and agricultural practices – have had a severe impact on biodiversity and water quality worldwide.”

Green Infrastructure in Lenexa, Kansas for Stormwater

Rainwater to Recreation

Lenexa Kansas LogoThe city of Lenexa, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, has a grand vision for a more sustainable and livable community. Part of this vision has been to embark on a green infrastructure project to address stormwater runoff in Central Green, a new 10-acre park within City Center North that offers an abundance of open green space, cascading ponds with stepping stones, and a well connected trail system. The green infrastructure project, called Rain to Recreation, has revitalized the surrounding natural habitat by transforming area rainwater from a disposal problem into an appealing recreational amenity.

The cascading ponds, otherwise called step pools, are designed to increase oxygen levels and reduce the flow rate of stormwater. The series of step pools lead to a constructed wetland with native plantings for naturally treating and absorbing the water. This innovative adaptation turned Lenexa’s stormwater liability into an asset.

Lenexa KansasThe four key goals of the Rain to Recreation program:

  1. Flood prevention – flood prevention involves investigating complaints of existing flooding as well as modeling streams for potential flooding. If homes are threatened, Rain to Recreation works to initiate a capital improvement project to solve the problem.
  2. Water protection – Rain to Recreation protects restored streams and other natural areas with best management practices to also prevent and reduce pollution. Native plantings, stream buffers, sediment bays, wetlands and bioretention cells are just a few of the ways Rain to Recreation works to keep water clean.
  3. Habitat restoration – Rain to Recreation aims to improve surrounding habitat by leaving the bottom of restored channels natural, and providing riffle and pool structures in all restored streams, as well as native corridors adjacent to the streams. Striving also to protect a habitat zone around lakes for future preservation; provide fish structures, such as brush piles and sand beds in lakes, and nesting boxes for a variety of birds.
  4. Education and recreation – A vital part of every project is educating the community, whether it’s generating buy-in from the beginning, outlining recreational amenities like trails and playgrounds, or setting outlines for how to protect areas after construction. Rain to Recreation works to engage local citizens, businesses, and other area stakeholders to increase communication and satisfy needs.

Central Green Park – A Constructed Wetland

The main feature of Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green park is the stream way. The Central Green stream way drains 65 acres of rainwater runoff that is guided through seven constructed step pools to slow the flow and oxygenate the rainwater as it pours over rock prior to ending up in the constructed wetland. The wetland area is planted with native plants to support filtration of the rainwater. The roots of these native plants penetrate deep within the soil turning the soil into a big sponge that can easily soak up the rainwater. Through this bio-remediation process, stormwater quality is dramatically improved and easily absorbed on the property. This innovative stormwater management approach transforms stormwater from a cost to a benefit, not only for the natural environment, but also for social and recreational enjoyment for the community.

Take a virtual tour of Lenexa’s green infrastructure.

Lenexa One of America’s Most Livable Cities

As a result of the city of Lenexa’s vision, Lenexa was named one of the best places to live in the U.S. by Money Magazine in 2011. Also Lenexa has become a role model for other communities interested in reaping the benefits that green infrastructure design can bring to a community – showcasing their design process and outcomes so other communities can easily model and build upon their own stormwater management programs. Lenexa’s dedication to their vision shows the value of innovative stormwater management, watershed protection techniques, use of native plant species, along with recreational amenities and environmental education for community members – making Lenexa a better place for today and for the future.

EPA Supports Green Stormwater Management in Lenexa, Kansas

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, contributed funding toward Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green. EPA’s stormwater website Managing Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure – summarizes common green infrastructure approaches and key resources for research, funding and partnerships. The EPA recognizes the need for resilient and affordable solutions to the many frail infrastructures in need of replacement or repair. Green infrastructure is one solution. You can join GreenStream, and EPA listserv featuring updates on green infrastructure publications, training and funding opportunities by sending an email to this link.

Join EPA Green Stream List

Following is the EPA video clip detailing the Lenexa’s green infrastructure project for Central Green:

 Click Here to Learn More About Green Infrastructure

Water Rich vs. Water Poor

Infographic by Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology that measures and conserves water.

Infographic: The Global Water Crisis

Infographic by Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meter technology that measures and conserves water.