Green infrastructure has become widely popular due to the environmental, economic, and social benefits it provides to municipalities and urban areas. Using elements of the natural environment and manufactured systems, it reduces stormwater runoff and improves the health of local waterways and can also provide benefits such as reduced energy use and improved air quality.

Urban areas in particular often experience runoff problems during heavy rains, when excessive water can cause devastating floods, overwhelm sewer systems, and pollute local waterways. Here, we’ll look at a few ways green infrastructure can be used to mitigate these problems by reducing stormwater runoff.

What Are Green Infrastructure Solutions?

To combat problems caused by previous poor practices and increased rainfall in recent years, municipalities are implementing plans for new building projects that include green infrastructure solutions. These plans often include one or several of the following solutions.

  • Water harvesting entails capturing and storing rainwater for uses such as irrigation.
  • Permeable pavement absorbs water to lessen surface runoff.
  • Bioretention and infiltration systems (e.g., rain gardens and bioswales) store water to mitigate flooding and also trap silt and other pollutants — keeping them out of local waterways.
  • Planting trees minimizes soil moisture thanks to transpiration through their leaves, but also increases soil’s ability to store water.
  • Green roofs, which are partially or totally covered with a growing medium and plants, store rainwater, which then evaporates, transpires, or can even be used for irrigation.

The goal of a green infrastructure system is to restore, protect, or imitate the natural water cycle while maintaining the community’s safety in an effective, economical, and sustainable way.

Reducing Urban Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff is a particular problem in our local area (Lancaster, Pennsylvania). When new construction begins, developing a plan for handling it is paramount. Without proper planning, excess rainwater overwhelms our drainage system, which results in flooding, and pollutants end up in our local waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2022, Flyway Excavating was tasked with the creation of a green infrastructure solution to the problem of rainwater runoff in downtown Lancaster’s Ewell Plaza. We included trees, permeable pavers, bioretention features, and water harvesting components, including a hidden retention system and connected cistern.

Flyway built the 122,584-gallon water retention system underneath the plaza, where it collects rainwater from the area and slowly releases it into the sewer system. We also added a 6,000-gallon cistern connected to the retention system that gathers rainwater and stores it so it can be used to water trees and other vegetation in the plaza.

What Are the Benefits of Green Infrastructure?

The Ewell Plaza project produced several of the benefits common to green infrastructure practices, including improved water and air quality and reduced risk of flooding. Another benefit is a reduction in the urban heat island effect (when city surfaces absorb the sun’s heat and cause local temperatures to rise) thanks to installing permeable pavement and planting trees. Not only do city residents now have a beautiful social space to enjoy downtown, but they can also enjoy cleaner local streams as well.

If you’re preparing to build, whether it’s a home, municipal building, or city-wide initiative, contact Flyway Excavating to bring green solutions to your next project. We are passionate about helping our clients build green infrastructure to benefit the community and protect the environment.