Many local governments have been creating programs to improve water quality by addressing non-point sources of pollution. Over the years the approach itself has had different names. Terms such as “low impact development,” and “environmental site design” seem to have given way to the name “green infrastructure” (GI) lately. GI often takes the form of multiple efforts ranging from green roof installations on city hall, to encouraging rain garden installations in private front yards. Oftentimes though, there is an umbrella name for the program that covers all of these related efforts. In researching how cities and counties have financed these programs, I could not help but start a list of some of the creative names that have been devised.
Trendy Names for GI Programs in Communities Across the US
The following are some of the names that have stood out. The list is in no particular order, and is certainly not comprehensive, so feel free to add your favorite program name via the “comments” section below.
- Green Alleys Program – Chicago, IL
- Street Edge Alternative (SEA) – Seattle, WA
- Grey to Green Initiative (G2G) – Portland, OR
- Better Streets Plan – San Francisco, CA
- Green City, Clean Waters – Philadelphia, PA
- Green Infrastructure 50/50 Fund – Binghamton, NY
- Save the Rain – Onondaga County, NY
- 10,000 Rain Gardens Initiative – Kansas City, Missouri
- Green Infrastructure Challenge – Washington, DC
- Clean Rivers Project or Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) – Washington, DC
- DC (Department of the Environment) – Riversmart Rewards Program
- Nashville: Naturally – Nashville, TN
- Greenseams – Milwaukee, WI
- Watershed Protection and Restoration Program (WPRP) – Prince George’s County, MD
What might these trendy names have to do with the financing of these water quality programs though? The Green Infrastructure 50/50 Fund is one that directly relates to funding. It will reimburse an applicant for up to 50% of the total project cost. The program is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to assist landowners in implementing GI practices. Most of the other program names have less of a financing connection, but perhaps have higher appeal to the general public. A name such as the “10,000 Rain Gardens Initiative” seems to encourage people to join in, and be one of those 10,000. This program has been very successful. One of the program’s seven (7) purposes was “to raise the profile and enhance the reputation of Water Services in order to secure voter-approved funding for future infrastructure needs.” Herein lies the connection to financing – it seems people are more willing to pay for water infrastructure after education and exposure to programs such as these. About a year ago, we had another blog post that included this as one of the secrets to paying for environmental programs.
Generating public financial support for water quality projects is certainly not limited to the United States. In the Netherlands, the Room for the River program is a strategic long-term plan to return green space to the floodplain and to absorb floodwaters rather than restrain them. The Dutch have the advantage of having dealt with these flooding issues for many centuries. But, the fact that so much of the water infrastructure in the United States is nearing the end of its useful life creates an important opportunity to implement GI. What seems particularly exciting is that smaller communities with less extensive grey infrastructure may be able to “leapfrog” their way ahead on watershed management by skipping some of the intermediary steps that larger, more developed communities may have engaged in. A parallel here from the field of communications is how so many people in developing countries who never had landlines have jumped straight to the use of cell phones. So, while larger communities may be better able to access sophisticated financing mechanisms such as public private partnerships for their GI programs, smaller communities may also have advantages when it comes to GI from the perspective that they never invested in as much grey infrastructure in the first place.