Nature can help us save money and increase our region's quality of life if we design streets, pipes and sidewalks to take advantage of natural processes.
The management of our stormwater and wastewater can benefit both us and nature.
The appropriate strategy will result in clean rivers and streams, create outdoor recreational opportunities close to home, reduce flooding, and improve wildlife habitat. The wetlands and parks in our neighborhoods manage stormwater, as well as wastewater, and are as important as the roads, sewers and schools to our region's quality of life.
Green infrastructure is cost-efficient and in the long run reduces ratepayers costs. It also supports local jobs.
In our region, we appreciate parks, rivers and streams not only for their beauty, wildlife and opportunities to play and rest but also for their assistance in the good functioning of our urban infrastructure. We are finding new ways to bring water into and out of our houses and buildings that are cheaper to build, friendlier to local critters, and may even enhance property values.
As early as 1989, longtime Portland activist (and current director of the Urban Greenspaces Institute) Mike Houck noted that wetlands and open spaces should be considered “greenfrastructure” and are just as important for the well-being and functionality of our neighborhoods as the more traditional roads, pipes and sewers that are commonly identified with infrastructure. Twenty years of research on this concept support his argument. Trees, wetlands and native plants, which for years have been pushed out of our cities, are increasingly viewed as best management practice to “control stormwater, mitigate urban heat islands and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.”
Increasingly, urban vegetation is viewed as a best management practice to control stormwater, mitigate urban heat islands, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions and air pollution. — PSU Aging report
The preservation of land near lakes and rivers can also help improve water quality; for example, by preserving land near Fanno Creek, we can keep the rivers downstream, the Tualatin, Willamette and Columbia, healthier for recreation and cleaner for native species. Using nature to absorb stormwater is not only sustainable, it is also tremendously cost-effective; the City of Tigard’s Green Street project will create a more distinctive downtown area with a pedestrian friendly atmosphere while also producing immense savings.
The City of Portland’s “Tabor to the River” project will save ratepayers $58,000,000 thanks to the use of innovative green infrastructure facilities.
Portland’s Watershed 2005 Plan seeks to “incorporate stormwater into urban development as a resource that adds water quality benefits and improves livability, rather than considering it a waste that is costly to manage and dispose.”
- Amount City of Portland ratepayers will save by investing in the innovative greenfrasturcture facilities for the “Tabor to the River” project: $58,000,000
- Benefit to Cost Ratios for street trees in Portland, OR: 3.61
- Stormwater intercepted by Portland’s urban forest canopy each year: 1,300,000,000
- Yearly cost savings from Portland's urban forest canopy due to prevented water treatment and processing: $36,000,000
- Percentage of the city of Portland, in 2007, covered by tree canopy: 27%
- Downspouts disconnected through the City of Portland’s incentivized program, 1993-2011: 56,000
- Stormwater these disconnected downspouts remove from the combined sewer system yearly: 1,200,000,000 gallons
- Wastewater cleaned daily by Washington County’s Clean Water Services: 58,000,000 gallons