Consider social equity in stormwater retrofits

Posted in: Environmental, Infrastructure, Water


Social equity stormwater retrofitsCommunities benefit when social equity is a factor when prioritizing stormwater retrofits. Disadvantaged communities within large municipalities often have denser populations and less open spaces. Due to aging infrastructure, these areas can also be prone to flooding and sewer overflows. Stormwater retrofits which replicate natural systems through the creation of open, green spaces serve to revitalize and promote health within these disadvantaged communities.

In addition to environmental benefits, residents near these green spaces receive several sociocultural benefits as well. Green infrastructure not only improves community aesthetics and connectivity to area waterways; increased green space leads to improved air quality, increased physical activity and reduced stress. These spaces provide areas where people can come together as a community. With less stress and increased community cohesion comes the added benefit of lowered crime rates.

The areas that often suffer from environmental degradation and lack of green space tend to be areas with lower income and minority populations. Mapping these demographics within a community when evaluating green infrastructure retrofits can aid in project identification and prioritization, helping us to mitigate this inequality. Disadvantaged communities often have greater need for green infrastructure—a disadvantaged community will benefit more from increased green space than a community that is already thriving. Providing green infrastructure to disadvantaged areas of the community can often receive higher ranking for grant funding as well.

It is important to actively engage community members in the process of planning and developing green infrastructure projects. This will help ensure the long-term success of the projects. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, this can require a modified approach to standard community outreach efforts. Yet it is worth the effort. Green infrastructure is an important tool in creating more equitable and environmentally enhanced cities.


Kari Nichols, PE

About the Author

If a raindrop falls on the project, Kari Nichols, P.E., gets involved to find a storm water management solution. “I believe in dedication and follow-through,” she says. “Deciphering regulatory language and developing workable design solutions helps me connect with clients and colleagues.” Kari has a taste for adventure and a passion for sustainability, which she satisfies by exploring natural and urban environments.

Read more posts by Kari Nichols, PE

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