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Why Study Green Infrastructure?

EPA scientists and engineers are exploring how to tap green, effective, and low-cost methods to improve stormwater management

Flooding, raw sewage overflows, and nitrogen impairment are all real concerns for urban water systems across the United States. EPA researchers strive every day to understand the causes of these problems and to identify and share solutions.

One focus of water research is green infrastructure—environmentally-friendly techniques to reduce urban water problems and health risks.

Image of a rain garden Image of a rain garden

Sample rain gardens one year (left) and two years (right) after installation.

Green infrastructure
can take many forms, from small-scale rain barrels and rain gardens to large-scale cisterns and streams. Ultimately, all green infrastructure either retains excess water runoff or redirects the runoff into the ground before it can enter sewer systems where it can cause flooding or overflow into nearby water resources. By diverting water into the ground, plants and soil will naturally filter the water and keep it out of the sewers.

Often, green infrastructure measures are less costly than improving traditional pipe systems, and they also have the potential to provide additional benefits such as community revitalization and increased property value due to green spaces.

Although green infrastructure offers a variety of promising methods city managers can use to address their urban water issues, the effectiveness or maintenance requirements of these techniques has yet to be extensively researched or documented.

This is where EPA researchers are taking the reins. With research ranging from soil analysis to best placement modeling, Agency researchers are working to inform city managers and decision-makers on the science of green infrastructure practices.

Read more about green infrastructure in this issue of Science Matters:

Take a look at the video below of EPA scientists managing sewer overflows with green infrastructure.

Learn More

EPA’s Green Infrastructure Research

How EPA Supports Green Infrastructure

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