The Greening of America

When it rains, it pours.

And when it pours, stormwater flows, picking up debris and toxic chemicals on roads, which ultimately pollute nearby waters.

Capturing this flow and making it work for communities is a challenge for urban planners and engineers. Enter green infrastructure: an engineering technique that mimics nature but is less costly than the traditional means of building tunnels, drains and mains.

The green infrastructure approach redirects stormwater into the soil through porous pavements, shrubbery on rooftops or sunken grassy areas along the edges of roads and parking lots.


The federal government has been promoting this approach since 2011. The nation’s cash-strapped cities, towns and counties, some of which face legal action for combined overflows of stormwater and wastewater, are looking upon this approach as a less costly way to achieve compliance.

There is a renewed focus on infrastructure investment in light of President Donald Trump’s promised trillion dollar infrastructure package. This week engineers and environmental advocates, local government officials and businesses descended on Washington D.C. to articulate what they would like to see included in this plan. Green infrastructure dominated the conversation among many local officials, who urged Congress to give them the ability to use this approach alongside traditional construction.

In this video, Kahlil Kettering, the Nature Conservancy’s urban planning director, talks about how green infrastructure has been put to use to capture stormwater from the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church in Hyattsville, Md.