Monday, January 28, 2008

Low Impact Development, THE Answer?

CMRC was lucky to attend a conference last week about Low Impact Development sponsored by the NY- NJ Baykeeper. Congratulations to Baykeeper on a super, very informative event.

First of all, what is Low Impact Development (LID)? Though there are many definitions, here is one of the best definitions presented at the conference:

LID describes methods that treat rainwater as a resource instead of a waste to be moved away from roofs, streets, and sidewalks as quickly as possible. These methods can improve or protect water resources in urban, suburban or rural ecological systems. LID is best defined by each individual community or region.

LID could be an excellent way to reduce combined sewer overflows in the New York – New Jersey Harbor Estuary Region, while in addition combating climate change and the heat island effect, not to mention providing energy savings. LID methods that could work here are:

- green roofs

- rain gardens

- rain water collection systems

- grey and black water collection systems

- green streets, or traffic calming features that allow for storm water infiltration

The ultimate challenge, described by Dr. Paul Mankiewicz of the Gaia Institute, is how to bring cities to life - how to change a sterile infrastructure into one with water flowing into fertile places where living organisms can use the water. LID can enhance opportunities for ecological productivity, prevent waste, and mitigate climate change.

Will these methods become a wide scale reality in our region? I believe the answer is yes, if we can continue to show through research that LID is cost effective and can provide the ecological benefits we hope it can.

Data from solid research will help our friends in the sustainability and environmental departments of local governments make the case to decision makers and budget crunchers that these are win-win strategies.

We can also make LID a reality if and only if we can make LID available to the middle and lower classes. And thus we come to that perpetual and great challenge the entire environmental movement faces on a daily basis -- how do we get the funding we need at all levels for better research and affordability?

The CMRC is addressing affordability in an upcoming workshop on paying for green infrastructure to be held in late spring. Keep posted for more information on dates and times.

Last but not least, I am happy to say my predecessors working on CMRC’s first green roof had the foresight to include a comprehensive monitoring component. Results available in the next four to five years.

1 comment:

Coastal Marine Resource Center said...

More and and more studies looking at the cost benefit analysis if LID vs traditional centralized systems and finding that the LID give you more bang for the buck in terms of not only pollution avoidance but also in added habitat value, improved livability of urban environments and energy/climate benefits as well. NYC resolution 630 seems to point us in the right directions on the policy front, now where will the funding support come from?