City of Chicago Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy

In 2014, Chicago, Illinois released its green stormwater infrastructure plan to improve the city’s water quality, reduce flood risks, and build climate resilience. With 26-miles of lakefront and 28-miles of riverfront, Chicago understands that water is both one of its greatest assets and largest sources of risk. This plan describes ways to integrate green techniques into Chicago’s well established, but already overtaxed stormwater system that will only become more burdened as climate change causes increased precipitation.

The plan explains how urban landscapes such as Chicago will benefit from capturing, sorting, and filtering water using green techniques rather than diverting it to a sewer system. It also describes the environmental, economic, and social improvements that stem from increasing vegetation, wetlands, and park space to absorb rainfall. The long-term stormwater management goals of the plan are to minimize basement flooding, reduce water pollution, enhance environmental quality, and increase extreme rain and climate resilience. The City presents six major new initiatives to meet these goals:

  • Integrate green stormwater infrastructure into future public capital projects; 
  • Incorporate permeable pavement into appropriate sewer main replacement projects;
  • Increase the use of green stormwater infrastructure in streetscape projects;
  • Undertake a study to determine costs and benefits of green infrastructure stormwater management; 
  • Develop rainfall frequency data that incorporates recent storms and climate projections; and
  • Create a comprehensive plan establishing a long-term vision and implementation strategy for stormwater management with green and grey stormwater infrastructure. 

Through this plan, the City of Chicago recognizes the need for significant long-term investment in stormwater infrastructure, committing $50 million over five years to green infrastructure construction. In planning for the future, the report notes that Chicago intends to incorporate projections of climate change to ensure they are addressing the city’s long-term challenges.

Chicago has already implemented several green infrastructure initiatives, including rooftop gardens, permeable alley and street pavement, distribution of rain barrels, and land use regulations requiring increased on-site green stormwater management that lay the groundwork for future action.

The plan is a key step to implementing the City’s Sustainability Plan and Climate Action Plan

 

Publication Date: April 2014

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