Significant investments in green stormwater infrastructure are needed in Raleigh. Green infrastructure helps us prepare for disruptive weather and protect our water resources. It also provides greenspace for public enjoyment.
Green infrastructure uses natural and built landscape features to capture and soak up rainwater. The issue is that impervious surfaces – roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and roofs – get dirty with oil, sediment, and trash. Rain transfers this debris to the storm drain and into our rivers and streams, and our local water supply.
Green infrastructure includes vegetative buffers on roadways, green roofs, and rain gardens, among other practices. Even the urban tree canopy plays a role. Learn more about existing examples in Raleigh:
Ultimately, public and private dollars are required to reduce water pollution and prevent flooding. Development is taking place at a rapid pace in Raleigh, and this will only exacerbate the issue.
Currently Raleigh has a 110-year backlog of stormwater improvement needs. Existing gaps in stormwater systems could cost $1 billion to remedy! The city’s stormwater management advisory commission (SMAC) has recommended a nominal stormwater fee rate increase (an additional $1.50 per month for the avg. household) to get us to 70 years of backlog.
To deal with the next 70 years of backlog, we should consider additional funding options like general obligation bonds, the clean water state revolving fund, and environmental impact bonds. Some communities are even experimenting with green infrastructure markets.
For example Washington, D.C. requires developers to build green infrastructure or buy credits to capture a certain amount of storm runoff. Credits are generated by other projects in the city that voluntarily build green infrastructure. Stormwater credit programs are also under consideration in Chattanooga, TN and Grand Rapids, MI.
Stormwater credit trading requires sufficiently strong regulatory drivers to create demand for credits. It only works well in locations with active development, so Raleigh would potentially be a good fit. It could help reduce costs of implementation and provide flexibility.
We should leverage private capital, in addition to our public tax dollars to protect Raleigh’s environment.