New Guide Helps Municipalities Monetize the Value of Green Infrastructure

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Emily Robinson, Center for Neighborhood Technology, erobinson@cnt.org, 773-269-4043
Will Hewes, American Rivers, whewes@americanrivers.org, 202-347-7550

New Guide Helps Municipalities Monetize the Value of Green Infrastructure

WASHINGTON -  Quantifying the economic value of green infrastructure’s benefits is
the key to helping municipalities adopt this innovative and
cost-effective stormwater management approach, according to a new report
by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and American Rivers.  “The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits” is a broad analysis that is the first to place an economic value on the numerous benefits provided by green infrastructure.

The guide fills an information gap that has hampered widespread
deployment of green infrastructure—the practice of managing stormwater
with natural systems. “The Value of Green Infrastructure” brings
together current research on green infrastructure performance and
presents methods for calculating related benefits in water management,
energy, air quality, climate, and community livability. 

“When you can assign economic value to the wide array of green
infrastructure benefits, planners, builders, and city officials can
accurately evaluate the advantages of these approaches for managing
stormwater in their communities,” said Danielle Gallet, infrastructure
strategist at CNT and one of the principal authors of the guide.
“Establishing a framework for calculating the benefits of green
infrastructure is a first, key step to making it a mainstream practice.”

Green infrastructure is a network of decentralized stormwater
management practices—such as green roofs, trees, rain gardens and
permeable pavement—that can capture and infiltrate rain where it falls,
reducing stormwater runoff and improving the health of surrounding
waterways.  The practices provide multiple environmental, economic and
social benefits, including, but not limited to:

  • Less polluted stormwater runoff
  • Improved air quality
  • Energy savings
  • Increased property values, and
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

"This guide helps quantify the multiple energy, economic and
environmental dividends we’re seeing in Portland with our own
sustainable stormwater efforts,” said Mike Rosen, Watershed Division
Manager of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services. ”Every planner,
stormwater manager or developer who's deciding how to invest their water
infrastructure dollars for the next 20 years should read this
informative, thought-provoking handbook."

Municipalities have often struggled to quantify green
infrastructure’s monetary benefits. However, any cost-benefit analysis
comparing grey infrastructure with green infrastructure is incomplete if
it fails to factor in the multiple benefits that only green
infrastructure uniquely delivers. These benefits are above and beyond
the basic stormwater control benefits, which are assumed to be equal to a
similar investment in grey infrastructure.

The values presented in this guide are not the final word. More
research is needed to put more accurate dollar figures on the full range
of green infrastructure’s benefits. Based on existing research data,
many of the estimates in this guide likely undervalue the true worth of
green infrastructure benefits, but it is an important first step in the
right direction.

"Living green infrastructure has just taken a giant leap forward with
the publication of this practical, user-friendly guide that will help
policy makers, designers, manufacturers and installers evaluate the many
benefits of these important and too often undervalued technologies,"
said Steven W. Peck, the founder and president of Green Roofs for
Healthy Cities.

Aurora, Illinois is an example of a municipality that understands the
many benefits conferred by green infrastructure. In 2009, the city
installed permeable pavers, bioswales and infiltration trenches at its
new police headquarters, managing the runoff from the property and from
adjacent uphill land. The features minimize the discharge of water and
pollutants to nearby Indian Creek and eliminate the persistent basement
flooding in nearby homes.  The guide’s aim is to make Aurora’s efforts
standard practice across the nation.

“When you do the math, the benefits of green infrastructure really
add up,” said Betsy Otto, Vice President for Conservation and Strategic
Partnerships at American Rivers, a funder of the project. “This guide
will help communities decide where, when, and to what extent green
infrastructure practices should be incorporated into their planning,
development and redevelopment activities.”

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American Rivers is the leading conservation
organization fighting for healthy rivers so communities can thrive.
American Rivers protects and restores the nation's rivers and the clean
water that sustains people, wildlife and nature. Founded in 1973,
American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters, with
offices in Washington, DC and nationwide. Visit www.AmericanRivers.org.

Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based
think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability
by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more
efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on climate, energy,
natural resources, transportation, and community development. CNT is one
of eight nonprofits selected from around the world to be recognized by a
2009 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, from the
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Visit www.cnt.org for more information.

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American Rivers is the only national organization standing up for healthy rivers so our communities can thrive. Through national advocacy, innovative solutions and our growing network of strategic partners, we protect and promote our rivers as valuable assets that are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Founded in 1973, American Rivers has more than 65,000 members and supporters nationwide, with offices in Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, California and Northwest regions.

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