Addressing the Concerns of Operations and Maintenance as a Technical Barrier to the Adoption of Green Infrastructure
The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes six different states as well as the District of Columbia and is home to 17 million people. Within the watershed, a variety of land uses (ranging from forests to agriculture to urban areas) impacts the health of the region’s 140 major rivers and streams, lakes, and 11,684 miles of shoreline.
Currently, large volumes of polluted runoff flow untreated directly into local waters or overwhelm the capacity of storm sewers, resulting in sewage overflows in places with combined systems, and the Chesapeake Bay has become one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country. However, green infrastructure provides a cost-effective approach to manage this polluted runoff.
Green infrastructure practices manage urban runoff to protect clean water by capturing and infiltrating rainwater where it falls. From green roofs to rain gardens, green infrastructure provides multiple benefits, not just to the environment but to the surrounding communities as well, by improving air quality and increasing green space.
These challenges were analyzed in two companion reports produced by American Rivers and Green for All. One of the major obstacles identified by the report is the uncertainty around how green infrastructure will be maintained.
Ongoing operations and maintenance was repeatedly raised as a technical barrier to the adoption of green infrastructure. The reports identify these key challenges:
- Financing operations and maintenance for green infrastructure
- Lack of awareness or poor public perception of green infrastructure
- Limited training and certification in green infrastructure operations and maintenance
- Minimal or ineffective enforcement and inspection procedures
This report was followed up with an examination of the opportunity provided by green infrastructure for creating entry-level jobs in the green sector, which would further address the “limited training and certification” barrier that was previously identified. The report demonstrated that green infrastructure investments are already showing successful private/public/nonprofit partnerships that protect the environment, increase access to economic opportunities, and improve social conditions of disadvantaged groups.
The reports conclude that as a cost-effective strategy to comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, some cities will see enough green infrastructure work in the coming decades to support a new industry that installs, supplies, maintains and monitors green infrastructure.