Watersheds cannot be improved by stream restoration alone. Additional measures, practices, and policies that support the integration of Green Infrastructure (GI) throughout the community are also needed.
According to the EPA, "Green Infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other elements and practices to restore some of the natural processes required to manage water and create healthier urban environments."
GI generally refers to Stormwater Control Measures (SCMs), or structural Best Management Practices (BMPs), that store stormwater and/ or allow it to be absorbed into the ground. These measures reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater generated by impervious surfaces, and allows pollutants to settle out or break down before they reach local streams and lakes. GI can be something as simple as preserving buffers along streams or planting trees throughout the community, or as complicated as designing and constructing wet ponds and rain gardens to reduce stormwater pollution from hundreds of acres of impervious cover (i.e. parking lots, buildings, houses).
While GI is primarily used to improve stormwater quality, GI's incorporation of natural elements can provide additional benefits for the community beyond stormwater management. GI can help improve air quality, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce the urban heat island effect, reduce energy usage required for heating and cooling, provide more urban-nature connections for aesthetic and psychological benefits to residents, and generally improve the quality of life.
Examples of GI that have been installed throughout the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County include:
- Bioretention (aka Rain Gardens)
- Wet ponds
- Water Quality Buffers
- Restoration of Floodplains
The benefits of GI are best realized when departments, agencies, and organizations work together to incorporate GI principles throughout their projects, policies, and programs.
Examples of City and/or County wide initiatives that support GI include policies such as Post Construction Stormwater Ordinances, Mecklenburg County's Floodplain Ordinance, the Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Ordinance that protects stream and lake buffers, and the City Council's 2011 goal to establish a 50% tree canopy by 2050. For more information about the City's tree program, please see TreesCharlotte. For more information about the PCSOs, floodplain or buffer policies see Watershed Protection or for the specific ordinances themselves see Regulations.
For more information about GI practices that have been installed, please see Pollution Control Projects, Stream and Wetland Restoration Projects, or the Pilot Stormwater Control Measures Program.
Green Infrastructure Questions?
City of Charlotte Water Quality Program Manager
Mecklenburg County Water Quality Program Manager