Stormwater runoff is a major cause of water pollution in urban areas. When rain falls in undeveloped areas, the water is absorbed and filtered by soil and plants. When rain falls on our roofs, streets, and parking lots, however, the water cannot soak into the ground. In most urban areas, stormwater is drained through engineered collection systems and discharged into nearby waterbodies. The stormwater carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants from the urban landscape, degrading the quality of the receiving waters. Higher flows can also cause erosion and flooding in urban streams, damaging habitat, property, and infrastructure.
Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments. At the scale of a city or county, green infrastructure refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provides habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water. At the scale of a neighborhood or site, green infrastructure refers to stormwater management systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water.