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Hydrologic investigations of green infrastructure by the Central Midwest Water Science Center

October 18, 2023

The water management system within developed communities includes stormwater, wastewater, and drinking-water sources and sinks. Each water management system component provides critical services that support public health in these areas. Stormwater can be quite variable and difficult to manage in developed communities because the amount of stormwater that must be routed through a developed area depends on changing land cover and variable precipitation. In addition to flooding concerns, stormwater also is a major cause of water contamination in developed communities because it carries contaminants such as trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and sediments to local waterways. Historically, communities have managed stormwater with gray infrastructure such as street gutters, culverts, sewer systems, and tunnels. Although these structures efficiently capture and route stormwater to a local waterway or treatment plant, they do not filter any contaminants. Furthermore, many older communities have combined storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems. These combined systems result in an excessive amount of wastewater to be treated before being released into receiving water or the untreated waters are released directly to receiving waters during storms.  

Many communities are now incorporating green infrastructure stormwater mitigating solutions—pervious surfaces (allows water through), grassed swales, bioretention basins, and rain gardens—into their stormwater-management systems. Green infrastructure can absorb and filter stormwater where it falls by taking advantage of natural soil and plant storage and filtration capabilities. Thus, green infrastructure projects can potentially reduce the amount of stormwater and the concentration and transport of contaminants. Increasing green infrastructure in a developed community may reduce the requirements for new storm sewer infrastructure, improve the water quality of nearby waterways, and enhance aesthetics. 

The U.S. Geological Survey has partnered with several cooperators to quantify the effects of green infrastructure projects in several developed communities throughout the central Midwest. As part of these green infrastructure projects, the U.S. Geological Survey Central Midwest Water Science Center and cooperators installed, calibrated, and monitored equipment to measure hydrologic responses (including flooding and water movement) and selected water-quality constituents in developed communities.

Publication Year 2023
Title Hydrologic investigations of green infrastructure by the Central Midwest Water Science Center
DOI 10.3133/fs20233043
Authors Allison A. Atkinson, David C. Heimann, Clinton R. Bailey
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2023-3043
Index ID fs20233043
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Midwest Water Science Center