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Environmental Group Releases Report on Green Infrastructure

Pittsburgh is making progress in using green infrastructure to combat water pollution, but more improvement is needed. That's one of the findings of the National Resources Defense Council's second "Rooftops to Rivers" report which explored the efforts of 14 cities.

David Beckman, Director of NRDC's Water Program, said green infrastructure mitigates urban storm water run-off and sewage overflows by using environmentally friendly practices to capture rainwater before it floods into storm drains or overwhelms sewer systems.

"There remains an urgent need in the U.S. to rethink how our cities keep storm water run-off and sewage pollution out of our waterways and water supplies," said Beckman. "EPA estimates 10 trillion gallons of untreated run-off are dumped onto our beaches and into our drinking water supplies each year."

The report rated cities' progress on a six-point "Emerald City Scale." Philadelphia earned the top spot with six points while Pittsburgh was second to last with only one point. The scale identifies six key actions cities should take to maximize green infrastructure investment.

  • Develop a long-term green infrastructure plan to lay out the city's vision, as well as prioritize infrastructure investment.
  • Develop and enforce a strong retention standard for stormwater to minimize the impact from development and protect water resources.
  • Require the use of green infrastructure to reduce or otherwise manage runoff from some portion of impervious surfaces as a complement to comprehensive planning.
  • Provide incentives for residential and commercial property owners to install green infrastructure, spurring private owners to take action.
  • Provide guidance or other affirmative assistance to accomplish green infrastructure through demonstration projects, workshops and "how-to" materials and guides.
  • Ensure a long-term, dedicated funding source is available to support green infrastructure investment.

Pittsburgh was credited with developing a retention standard for stormwater to minimize the impact from development.
Noah Garrison, a lawyer with NRDC, said that all of the cities profiled are leaders in green infrastructure investment, but Pittsburgh still has things it can do better. "Pittsburgh has begun strong efforts to use green infrastructure. There are certainly areas that Pittsburgh can improve," said Garrison. "We'd really like to see it have a long term green infrastructure plan, and a dedicated funding source for green infrastructure, and a requirement to use green infrastructure to reduce the presence of impervious surface in the existing built environment."

The report comes in advance of possible new Environmental Protection Agency regulations this winter for controlling run-off pollution from development. You can read the entire report on the NRDC website.