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Home > Feature Articles > Sustainable Development Best Practices for Community Sustainability

Low Impact Development Strategies to Manage Stormwater Runoff

Total capital cost savings ranged from 15 to 80% when LID methods were used...

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EPA Landscape Low Impact Development The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a new report "Reducing Stormwater Costs through Low Impact Development (LID) Strategies and Practices," which contains 17 case studies from across North America that show the economic viability of LID practices. Using these practices in construction projects can lower costs while improving environmental results.

Reducing Stormwater Costs through Low Impact Development

Low Impact Development practices are innovative stormwater management practices to manage urban stormwater runoff at its source. The goal is to mimic the way water moved through an area before it was developed by using design techniques that infiltrate, evapotranspirate, and reuse runoff close to its source. Some common LID practices include rain gardens, grassed swales, cisterns, rain barrels, permeable pavements and green roofs. LID practices increasingly are used by communities across the country to help protect and restore water quality.

The case studies presented in this report show that LID practices can be both fiscally and environmentally beneficial to communities. Site-specific factors influence project outcomes, but in general, for projects where open space was preserved and cluster development designs were employed, infrastructure costs were lower. In most cases, significant savings were realized due to reduced costs for site grading and preparation, stormwater infrastructure, site paving, and landscaping.

Total capital cost savings ranged from 15 to 80 percent when LID methods were used, with a few exceptions in which LID project costs were higher than conventional stormwater management costs.

The report highlights examples that, in most cases, reduce project costs while improving environmental performance. Total capital savings ranged from 15 to 80 percent, with a few exceptions in which LID project costs were higher than conventional stormwater management costs. As LID practices become more common, it is likely that they will become cheaper to use.

Natural Approach to Stormwater Management

LID is based on the premise that a natural approach to stormwater management is best. In forests and other natural areas, most rainfall percolates through the soil, is absorbed by vegetation, or evaporates to the atmosphere. LID is a means of enabling developed areas to simulate nature to preserve predevelopment flow conditions.

When the natural landscape is replaced with roads, parking lots, roofs, and other impervious surfaces, rainfall can no longer soak into the ground. This results in a tremendous increase in polluted runoff. Rather than employing the traditional stormwater management approach that uses miles of costly pipes and acres of stormwater ponds to deal with this additional runoff, LID uses natural vegetation and small-scale treatment systems to treat and infiltrate stormwater runoff close to where it originates. Reducing the amount of stormwater runoff generated in the first place reduces impacts on streams carrying stormwater.

Techniques employed to provide advanced stormwater management include green infrastructure, conservation design, and sustainable stormwater management. In the case of new development, LID is typically used to achieve or pursue the goal of maintaining or closely replicating the predevelopment hydrology of the site. In areas where development has already occurred, LID can be used as a retrofit practice to reduce runoff volumes, pollutant loadings, and the overall impacts of existing development on the affected receiving waters.

For a copy of the report:

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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