Opinion: Cities Need Green Infrastructure to Weather Future Storms

How ‘sponge cities’ can protect residents and conserve water.

2 minute read

May 15, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Center for Watershed Protection, Inc via NYS Stormwater / Flickr

In an opinion piece in Next City, Franco Montalto touts the benefits of the ‘sponge city’ approach to flood mitigation that more and more cities are undertaking to protect their residents and infrastructure from catastrophic floods.

According to Montalto, “If this concept is to evolve into the new standard for urban design, city officials and developers will need to find ways to scale up and accelerate this work.”

Montalto explains that most U.S. stormwater management systems are not designed to handle all of the runoff created during a large storm. Now, cities are shifting to ‘green infrastructure’ to manage stormwater and direct it back into the ground rather than shuttling it out to rivers or oceans. This comes with its own challenges. “In the best cases, green infrastructure has been installed on publicly owned land and required on new or redesigned large-scale developments. It has proved much more challenging to incorporate green infrastructure on smaller, privately owned land parcels, which collectively make up a significant percentage of urban watershed areas.” In some areas, stormwater management is not even required as part of new development.

Montalto outlines some strategies cities can use to prevent flooding that include permeable asphalt, green roofs, rain gardens, and parks and green spaces designed to flood safely. Montalto also suggests ways to fund these efforts, pointing to collaborations between cities and nonprofit organizations as one option. “Cities could also offer incentives for retrofitting and scaling up existing stormwater management systems on private land. A trading system could be set up to sell the residual capacity to nearby property owners who lack onsite stormwater management opportunities.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in Next City

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Google office building in Virginia.

Virginia Data Centers Draining State’s Water Supply

Being the world’s largest data center hub is having a severe impact on local water resources.

May 9, 2024 - Grist

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state.

Northwest Power Demand Could Surge as Data Centers, Transportation Electrification Ramps Up

New estimates project a steady increase in electricity demand due to population growth, data centers, and the shift to electric power in homes, buildings, and transportation.

May 17 - Governing

Blurred traffic speeding by on freeway with Los Angeles skyline in background.

California Testing Per-Mile Gas Tax Alternatives

A summer pilot program will test the fairness and efficacy of collection mechanisms for mileage-based fee options.

May 17 - Newsweek

Close-up of 'Pay rent' note in red marker on day 1 of monthly calendar.

After Months of Decreases, Rents Nationwide Are Going Up

Average rents rose by $12 around the country so far this year.

May 17 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.