Cities around the US have implemented or considered green stormwater infrastructure because it can be used to mitigate local street flooding and sewer backups that are caused by large rainstorms. The aim is to ensure that stormwater never enters the sewer system where it can overwhelm water treatment facilities or overflow and contaminate rivers.
CivicMapper has worked with 3 Rivers Wet Weather on improving the data needed to support the green stormwater initiative here in Pittsburgh. We helped to develop a unified web mapping platform to replace several disparate, legacy mapping systems that they had. We also implemented a new approach to data collaboration and maintenance that supports the ongoing need for integrated watershed management and planning in the greater metropolitan area.
Other cities that want to pursue their own green infrastructure plans need to overcome a host of technical challenges. At CivicMapper, we see organizations all the time that don’t yet have the high quality data needed for these projects. For instance, cities need good elevation and engineering datasets that are geospatially enabled. This is critical, but it can also be challenging to compile. This is because each segment of pipe and piece of infrastructure has to have its own ID and unique location, and then needs to be categorized in terms of attributes like size, what it carries, and in what direction. Water and Sewer authorities may already have engineering data that includes some of these attributes but not others.
Upgrading infrastructure to include a green component requires an investment of both time and money. While it’s ultimately more cost effective than using cisterns or burying large pipes underground, landowners must agree to place this infrastructure on their property, and incentives to use things like rain barrels should be encouraged whenever possible. In the end, green infrastructure is not only a smart way to capture stormwater but can also create a beneficial ecology, and can be used to beautify neighborhoods as well.
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