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What is Green Infrastructure?
Green Infrastructure refers to methods of stormwater management that reduce wet weather/stormwater volume, flow, or changes the characteristics of the flow into combined or separate sanitary or storm sewers, or surface waters, by allowing the stormwater to infiltrate, to be treated by vegetation or by soils; or to be stored for reuse. Green Infrastructure (GI) methods are management practices that address stormwater runoff through soils, or reuse. GI practices include, but are not limited to, pervious paving, bioretention basins, vegetated swales, and cisterns. The use of green infrastructure encourages the idea that stormwater is a resource that can be reused, instead of being treated as a nuisance that needs to be removed as quickly as possible.
As NJ continues to recover from Superstorm Sandy, strong efforts are being made to implement several resiliency practices to help handle the effects of similar future events. Green infrastructure is one of these key practices, and it is essential that these methods be utilized as frequently as possible to promote sound stormwater management going forward.
Homeowners can incorporate green infrastructure in several ways. Rain barrels can be placed under a roof drain to collect rooftop runoff. The rain water is then used to water the plants or wash the car. Rain Gardens are excavated garden areas that collect and infiltrate water. Rooftop runoff can also be directed to them so they are watered naturally every time it rains. Disconnection of impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, is another way to reduce runoff. It allows downspouts to drain into the lawn or another vegetated area instead of directly to the storm drains. Crossing vegetated area allows the runoff the opportunity for infiltration before entering the storm sewer system.
Green Infrastructure can benefit businesses as well as the environment. Runoff occurs when there is more precipitation than the soil and vegetation can absorb. Water on parking areas can freeze and cause hazards to customers in parking lots. Permeable pavement can be used in parking lots instead of regular pavement because it is porous and will inhibit ponding and freezing. Cisterns or Rain barrels can also be used to collect rain water from the gutter for irrigation. Rain gardens can also collect and store water from rooftop runoff, providing improved aesthetics as well as enhanced environmental benefits. Green roofs attenuate the rainfall peaks by intercepting the first few inches of rainfall, reducing the flow to the storm sewer system during heavy rains.
Municipalities and Counties
Municipalities have the ability to incorporate green infrastructure on a neighborhood scale to reduce runoff, relieve overburdened storm drains, and enhance the beauty of the town. One neighborhood wide technique is to incorporate green infrastructure measures such as pervious pavement, street trees, or bioretention basins into the street layout through traffic calming features like curb bump outs, green stormwater practices in rights-of-way and permeable sidewalks. A municipal facility can utilize cisterns to reduce its potable water use runoff impacts during small storm events.
Some types of green infrastructure projects can provide not only an environmental benefit to a school or community center, but also serve as an interactive learning opportunity.
Rain gardens can be installed with assistance from students and members of the community in both the planning and the construction phases. The use of rain gardens can assist educators in teaching how to maintain a portion of the water cycle. Rain gardens can provide habitat to many insects, butterflies, and wildlife that can be part of the curriculum as well.
Rain barrels or cisterns are another simple project option, particularly where the soils make the installation of a rain garden challenging. Students can participate through painting a rain barrel, or by using the water captured in a rain barrel or cistern to reduce potable water use for watering lawns and gardens.
Our Watershed Ambassador Program offers free environmental educational presentations on various water topics throughout New Jersey. Interested parties can contact the ambassadors at https://www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bear/americorps_contact_info.htm.
The New Jersey Project WET! (Water Education for Teachers) Program also provides educational resources.
Completed Green Infrastructure Projects (by county)
The objective of the Camden SMART (Stormwater Management and Resource Training) Initiative is to develop a comprehensive network of green infrastructure programs and projects for the City of Camden. The Initiative includes neighborhood green infrastructure projects, stormwater management policy development, and green infrastructure training programs.
Garden State Greenways
Statewide vision, suggested goals, detailed maps and powerful Geographic Information System (GIS) data and planning tools to help coordinate efforts of private groups and government agencies.
NJ Tree Foundation
The NJ Tree Foundation is a state-wide nonprofit dedicated to planting trees in NJ's most underserved neighborhoods. The Tree Foundation is greening the Garden State through rain garden construction, vacant lot stabilization and fire wise gardens. To date, they have planted 179,606 trees across the state.
Sustainable Jersey is a non-profit organization providing resources and a certification program for municipalities in NJ that want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term.
NJ Storm Water BMP Manual
The New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual provides guidance to address the standards in the proposed Stormwater Management Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:8. The BMP manual contains examples of ways to meet the standards contained in the rule. The methods referenced in the BMP manual are one way of achieving the standards. An applicant is welcome to demonstrate that other proposed management practices will also achieve the standards established in the rules.
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
The Cooperative Extension leads several efforts throughout the State of New Jersey by providing green infrastructure educational programs and implementing demonstration projects. The RCE Water Resources Program has been providing technical assistance to communities for several years, solving water resources problems.
Rutgers Introduction to Green Infrastructure Practices
Provides a clear and concise overview of the basics of stormwater runoff, CSOs, and the benefits of green infrastructure, as well as types and explanations of a number of green infrastructure practices.
Other Useful Links
For general information, please contact Lisa Schaefer.
For technical information, please contact Adriana Caldarelli.
Division of Water Quality
Bureau of Nonpoint Pollution Control
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420
Tel. (609) 633-7021