By Shannon Madden
Kansas City recently became the first in the country to incorporate green infrastructure in its official stormwater plans. To uphold its consent decree with the U.S. EPA and address past violations of the Clean Water Act, the City will capture and treat 88% of combined sewer overflows, according to Kansas City Councilmember Jan Marcason. A lot of this will be achieved with the same best management practices that the Metropolitan Planning Council and its partners are implementing in the Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor in Chicago.
Lacking federal and state funding to repair traditional infrastructure (e.g., sewer mains and detention basins), Kansas City citizens like those on the Wet Weather Panel successfully advocated for green infrastructure. Projects so far have included 64 rain gardens, 30 bio-retention cells, and permeable sidewalks. So far, the City has saved about $10 million over the estimated cost of storing stormwater in conventional underground tanks. Private property owners are saving, too: owners who implement green infrastructure can receive 75% off of Kansas City’s stormwater fee (which averages $2.50/month and funds the City’s Wet Weather Solutions Program).
The City’s widespread use of green infrastructure brings additional benefits, too. Residents feel a stronger sense of community pride as rain gardens and other green infrastructure beautify neighborhoods. Highly visible best management practices also enable communities to see exactly where the money is going, and they’re proud of the investment. This has stirred citizen action groups like the Utility Funding Task Force to ensure that community values continue to inform the City’s water management plans. Along with improved stormwater management, these community-building impacts are important benefits of green infrastructure. As Marcason told the Sustainable City Network, green infrastructure brings “social, economic and environmental benefits that make our city a better place to live and work.”
You can read more about Kansas City’s green infrastructure projects in the Natural Resource Defense Council’s case study.