Building the Blue Economy: Opportunities for Community-Based Organizations in Stormwater Management

Using Buffalo, New York as a primary case study, this report explores  both the challenges and winning strategies for advocating for neighborhood-level green infrastructure solutions. It focuses on a project called “PUSH Blue,” supported by the non-profit People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo, to implement stormwater management intervention in Buffalo’s West Side. Especially for low-income communities, such projects can yield strong intersecting benefits for sustainability, neighborhood redevelopment, and job creation. While not explicitly oriented toward climate adaptation, this report outlines relevant methods to achieve community-based green infrastructure (“blue economy”) projects to manage stormwater.  

Learn how to create a market for green infrastructure and how to develop a program to bring the most benefits to your community.

The project utilizes rain gardens, bioswales, downspout disconnects, and stormwater harvesting for two large community gardens, passive irrigation for urban agriculture sites, permeable pavers, living walls, and green roofs on 25 PUSH-owned sites. It also promotes other local property-owners to make use of rain barrels. This project showcases the potential of using this strategy for expanding employment in a range of green jobs sectors while producing high-quality green affordable housing; reducing housing vacancy; weatherizing homes; transforming vacant land; and improving public infrastructure.

The report provides context for combined sewer overflow problems in many cities, highlighting associated environmental justice issues and the need for equitable solutions. For example, residents of Buffalo’s West Side face significant health risks from eating fish out of the Niagara River, the third most popular freshwater fishery in the U.S. due to sewage overflows, added to the legacy contamination from the area’s industries. Many refugees and people with low incomes in the neighborhood rely on these fish as an affordable food source.  

The authors of the report advocate for what they call a “high road” approach to large public infrastructure investments, meaning approaches that maximizes benefits to the community. Whether achieved through a community benefits agreement or legislation, standards should include paying living wages; hiring workers from disadvantaged communities; providing quality, affordable health insurance; issuing employer funded retirement plans; providing paid sick leave; and complying with tax and labor laws.


The report concludes with nine additional case studies from organizations around the country also carrying out synergistic programs.


Publication Date: April 17, 2014

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Sam Magavern
  • Tina Meyers
  • Jen Kaminsky
  • Sarah Maurer

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Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

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