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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive 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 specific content on 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.

Survive, Adapt, and Grow: EPA, Rockefeller Foundation Team Up for Resilient Cities

By Lek Kadeli

“City Resilience: The capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a system to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

Rainbow over a cityscape

EPA is a platform partner for 100 Resilient Cities.

EPA recently announced a partnership to help communities across the United States and around the world achieve that very definition of city resilience by supporting 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. Agency sustainability scientists and other experts will help urban communities take actions today to realize vibrant and healthy futures.

100 Resilient Cities was launched in 2013 to provide urban communities with access to a network of expertise, innovative tools, and models that will help them meet and bounce back even better from serious challenges—from chronic stresses such as air pollution and diminishing access to clean water, to more sudden events including floods, “superstorms” and other weather events, and acts of terrorism.

To support the partnership, EPA researchers will work directly with urban communities to share a variety of innovative tools and initiatives they have developed to meet just such challenges. For example:

  • The National Stormwater Calculator, an easy-to-use, online tool will help communities effectively tap innovative green infrastructure techniques to reduce nutrient pollution and the risk of local flooding, while also planning for the increase of stormwater runoff that is expected due to climate change.
  • EnviroAtlas, is a multi-scale, geographical-based online mapping, visualization, and analysis tool that integrates more than 300 separate data layers on various aspects of how natural ecosystems benefit people. The tool provides communities with a resource for developing science-based, strategic plans that sustain the ability of “ecosystem services” to absorb and mitigate stresses—a critical aspect of resiliency.
  • The Triple Value Systems tool provides an interactive model built on the dynamic relationship among economic, societal, and environmental impacts. Simulations illustrate the tradeoff and benefits of different decisions, supporting consensus building in pursuit of sustainable, resilient communities.
  • Incorporating a new generation of low cost, portable, and low maintenance air quality sensors into community-based air quality monitoring and awareness resources, such as “The Village Green Project,” will help individuals take action to protect their health, and community leaders to reduce the impacts of poor local air quality.
  • CANARY Event Detection Software, developed by EPA researchers in partnership with colleagues from Sandia National Laboratories, is an early warning system for detecting contaminants in drinking water. Recognized as a top 100 new technology by R&D Magazine, it helps water utilities continually monitor for threats and take early action to minimize disruptions.
EPA's Village Green Project, a solar-topped bench with air sensors

The Village Green project

EPA’s leadership advancing the science of sustainability and resiliency makes us a natural fit for supporting 100 Resilient Cities. Joining the network of other “platform partners” will help us share our research results and best practices and expand the impact of what our partners and we learn. We are thrilled to be part of this important effort advancing more sustainable and resilient communities, and look forward to a future where cities across the globe survive, adapt, and grow—no matter what.

About the Author: Lek Kadeli is the Acting Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive 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 specific content on 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.