How Capturing Rainwater Can Make Cities Safer, More Resilient

Green infrastructure can help prevent flooding and replenish groundwater supplies, preventing subsidence that makes land sink.

1 minute read

March 3, 2024, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Zebra crosswalk with raised curb extensions and bioswale on small street with parked cars and mature trees.

A bioswale replaces concrete with landscaping, retaining stormwater. | Eric Fischer, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Bioswale and curb extensions

According to an article by Matt Simon in Wired, U.S. cities could be capturing tens of billions of gallons of rainwater with more ‘spongy’ infrastructure.

A new report from the Pacific Institute indicates that urban areas generate almost 60 million acre-feet of stormwater runoff per year — much of which is diverted away from cities and into the ocean or other bodies of water. Reversing this approach to capture rainwater could help replenish groundwater resources and secure local water supplies.

Simon points to a recent report that Los Angeles captured 8.6 billion gallons of water in recent storms through a combination of green infrastructure methods. On the East Coast, cities are working to mitigate flooding through rain gardens, bioswales, and permeable pavement. “More cities are also adopting stormwater fees, charging landowners based on the amount of impervious surfaces on a property, thus encouraging them to open up more ground.”

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