Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWiz)

The Tools in Our Green Infrastructure Toolkit

By Michaela Burns 

Almost everyone has a story to share about storms.  Maybe it rained so hard one day that you stayed inside curled up by the fireplace. Maybe it caused a power outage that left you and your family playing board games by flashlight. When I think about storms, I always think about the clogged drains that kept brown stormwater filled with trash on the sidewalks of Manhattan. My childhood friends and I would make a game of dancing over these large puddles. As an adult it became something I warily sidestepped to protect my shoes.

That water is called stormwater runoff, which is rain water that picks up chemicals, metals, and other debris as it travels to the sewers. Hundreds of cities in the U.S. like New York and Chicago use a combined sewer system to move stormwater runoff and wastewater away from urban centers and to treatment plants. During heavy storms, excess water overflows the system and sewage is sent straight to nearby water sources. These overflows are called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and they are a major water pollution concern for cities. In New York, for example, more than 27 billion gallons of sewage and polluted stormwater contaminates the Hudson River each year.rain drops with info on each tool

EPA supports the use of green infrastructure (e.g. green roofs, permeable parking lots, rain gardens) because it can help reduce the amount of stormwater contaminating our water sources and prevent erosion and flooding that can damage infrastructure and the environment. EPA researchers have developed different green infrastructure models and tools to help communities with stormwater management. An upcoming EPA webinar will present a modeling toolkit consisting of five such resources and additional communication material that can be used to help implement certain green infrastructure practices. The models and tools in this toolkit include:

  • Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWIZ) – GIWIZ is a web application that provides communities with information on EPA green infrastructure tools and resources.
  • Watershed Management Optimization Support Tool (WMOST) – WMOST is a software application that allows water resource managers and planners to screen a wide range of management practices for cost-effectiveness and economic sustainability.
  • Visualizing Ecosystem Land Management (VELMA) Assessments– VELMA is a computer software model that regional planners and land managers can use to determine which green infrastructure practice would be most effective for improving water quality in streams, estuaries, and groundwater.
  • Storm Water Management Model (SWMM)-The SWMM is a simulation model that communities can use for stormwater runoff reduction planning, analysis, and the design of combined sewers and other drainage systems.
  • The National Stormwater Calculator (SWC) – The SWC is a desktop application that estimates the annual amount of rainwater and frequency of runoff from a specific site anywhere in the United States (including Puerto Rico). Users can use SWC to learn about the ways that green infrastructure technology like rain gardens can prevent water pollution in their neighborhoods.

Register now for this webinar on Wednesday, October 26th at 2:00 pm ET to learn from EPA researchers how these tools can help you incorporate green infrastructure into your community. Or discover the green infrastructure modeling toolkit on your own time.

About the Author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Nexus of Food-Energy and Water: Critical Steps to Sustainability

By Alan Hecht

three images vertically aligned showing food, energy, and waterEPA is one of several government sponsors for the upcoming Nexus conference (January 19-21) organized by the National Council on Science and the Environment (NCSE).  This timely event recognizes the intricate links between food, energy, land, and water management in today’s complex world:  water supply is influenced by demands from energy and food sectors; food production requires both water and energy; and energy requires water for a large fraction of its production and delivery.

Looking ahead we have several major challenges. Global population is expected to increase by 38%, from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.6 billion in 2050.  It is estimated that with a population of 8.3 billion people by 2030, we will need 50% more energy, 40% more water, and 35% more food (source, see: “Can ‘nexus thinking’ alleviate global water, food and energy pressures?” Tim Smedley, 2013, Guardian Magazine).

The Conference will focus on critical questions:

  • How do we feed the 9.6 billion people expected to be alive in 2050?
  • What are the opportunities to improve water and energy efficiency and reduce food waste?
  • What are the strategies for resilience in the face of increased climate variability and other environmental changes?
  • What science and technological are needed to meet these problems?

Government and business must now deal with the nexus of food-energy and water, as well as   economic development, health and wellbeing and environmental protection. This means integrated, systems thinking is needed.   For us here at EPA, partnership is key to the next phase of environmental protection– achieving sustainable outcomes. We are embracing research that strategically engages government-business collaboration as critical foundations for achieving sustainable outcomes.

Working with our partners, we have advanced a guiding definition of sustainability as a goal and a process for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. The goal is to protect our future generations; the process involves use of technology, tools and approaches to achieve sustainable outcomes.

One example is our partnership with the U.S. Army to support their Net Zero initiative,  while dramatically lowering—or eliminating—energy consumption, water use, and waste generation on military bases.

To support such efforts and help local communities, Agency researchers have already developed hundreds of decision support tools to assess the potential impacts of decisions and advance actions that can promote healthy and sustainable communities well into the future. For example, our recently released “Green Infrastructure Wizard” (GIWiz) provides an interactive web application connecting communities to a wealth of EPA Green Infrastructure tools and resources.

As is evident from the conference, in the world today we must recognize the nexus of land, water, energy and food and must aim for sustainable outcomes. The goal today at EPA is that “sustainability isn’t part of our work, it is a guiding influence for all of our work.”

About the Author: Alan Hecht is the Director for Sustainable Development in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.