Our municipality would like to explore green infrastructure projects. What is the low-hanging fruit for these types of projects, as our town would like to properly measure effectiveness before investing into larger, long-term projects?

A: At the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, there is an ongoing pursuit to achieve a natural water balance in managing stormwater runoff in a heavily urbanized environment. Conventional urban runoff management practices can vary in complexity, cost, effectiveness, and overall fit. Green infrastructure and low impact development (LID) technology can be viewed as any natural or engineered system that achieves a natural water balance in an otherwise developed area. Selection of the most suitable green infrastructure and LID installations can depend on factors such as capital costs, land footprint requirements, aesthetics, limited design parameters, and pollution prevention and runoff management effectiveness. Green infrastructure and LID technology can include any of the following: constructed wetlands, pervious land cover, swales and bioretention areas, green roofs, and rainwater harvesting systems. Installation effectiveness can be measured through factors such as: increased infiltration, reduced surface runoff of harmful pollutants into rivers and streams, and improved flood mitigation and erosion control. Design of a progressive implementation plan would account for short-term and long-term municipal needs, thus allowing for the effective installation of both small-scale and large-scale systems over time.

Eric Meliton
Eric is a project manager at Partners in Project Green (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) and is also a principal consultant at Echion Group. He is a thought leader and industry conduit whose expertise includes analysis of industrial and municipal water/wastewater treatment technologies trends, execution of corporate social responsibility objectives, development of international government relations, and supporting executive level strategy and vertical market expansion. Eric is accustomed to working within diverse industry environments, leveraging a comprehensive regulatory compliance, capital project management, and quality assurance background.

A: Low-hanging fruit as it relates to Green Infrastructure (GI) are tangible projects that the public can see immediate benefits from so that your program can gain some early momentum. A commonly accepted beneficial application of GI is for street and yard flooding mitigation in fully developed areas. It is generally more cost-effective to retrofit an existing ROW with bioretention facilities than install new or upgrade existing storm sewers. Careful planning should account for project-specific impacts such as stormwater quantity/quality, site/soil conditions, public safety, and overall public acceptance.

Larger utilities such as Columbus, OH, Philadelphia, and New York, to name a few, have GI planning and design guidelines readily available for your review. It is recommended that you contact other similar utilities within your region and consult an experienced engineering firm for assistance in formulating your own strategy.

Christine Ballard
Christine Ballard, PE, is a Vice President and Water Resources Practice Leader at T&M Associates, based in T&M’s Middletown, NJ office. Christine has proven herself a key player and leader not only at T&M, but in the expansive engineering field as well.