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Solving urban and climatic challenges by building with nature

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) integrates into the region’s green spaces, streetscapes, and public and private buildings, providing social, economic, and environmental benefits.

Examples of GSI include tree trenches, rain gardens, green roofs, planters, and more. These practices can provide tremendous social benefits for our communities. A recent SBN study found that investing in GSI reduced health-costs and lower crime rates [2019 Report: The Economic, Social, and Environmental Case for Green City, Clean Waters: An Update]. For example, GSI projects can invest in a community’s parks and green spaces, improving air quality and encouraging play.

In addition to those benefits, GSI is also an economic powerhouse for local economies. Philadelphia is a national leader among large cities for setting the example on how to focus on GSI. The city’s 25-year stormwater management plan, Green City, Clean Waters, began implementation in 2011. This ambitious and innovative plan provides approximately $4 billion in total economic impact for Philadelphia, including an average of 1,160 jobs created each year, according to the 2019 study.

Alongside the economic and social benefits, GSI provides environmental benefits such as filters for stormwater runoff that can otherwise send pollutants and litter into our waterways. GSI also reduces the amount of water rushing off of impervious surfaces. As climate change leads to more rapid high-volume rain events, GSI can be an effective tool to manage stormwater. In urban areas, some communities can experience hotter surface temperatures and higher greenhouse gas concentrations due to a high percentage of impervious surfaces (sidewalks, parking lots, buildings). GSI provides relief to these communities by increasing green spaces and shade coverage. 


“Back in 2011, it became evident that there was no one representing local, private green businesses and nonprofits who were, in some cases, risking their livelihood in support of the basic goodness and sustainability of Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Water program. SBN’s GSI Partners emerged in 2012 and has taken an important leadership role in advocating for GSI in Philadelphia and our region ever since.  Thank you, GSI Partners!”

Howard Neukrug P.E.UPenn Professor, former Commissioner and CEO of Philadelphia Water