Improving Puget Sound Water Quality through "Green Street"

Improving Puget Sound Water Quality through National Case Studies in "Green Street" Natural Drainage Design Alternatives

Second in a series of posts on our Sustaining Affordable Communities grant, courtesy of The Russell Family Foundation:  Improving Puget Sound Water Quality through “Green Street” Natural Drainage Design Alternatives

Restoration.  Who wouldn’t like to see a little more green and a lot less concrete?  With a grant from The Russell Family Foundation, our team is exploring opportunities in our Seattle neighborhood to enhance both the social and physical environment of the connective streetscape:

  • Pedestrian Safety
  • Bicycle Accommodation
  • Traffic Calming
  • Aesthetics
  • Polluted Runoff Reduction
  • Stormwater Quality

I’m reminded again of the importance of stormwater management when after the recent snow and ice storm, Seattleites were asked to check their catch basins and storm drains to be sure they were clear to avoid urban flooding.   With the rules of “economies of scale”, it makes sense to manage rain and stormwater and treat it in one location.  What happens when you’ve maximized that system?  Well, Seattle is just one of many cities across the country facing that very question, so we avoid discharging our combined (sanitary and storm) sewer water into our lakes and the Sound.  How we approach stormwater management in urban, high-traffic/high-pedestrian areas where land and space is a premium, is quite an interesting challenge.  Here are just a few examples of cities across the country are doing to create “Green Streets” or “Complete Streets”

As part of the City of Portland’s commitment to promote a more natural approach to urban stormwater management, this green street project converts the landscaped area between the sidewalk and the street curb along a commercial street into a series of stormwater planters designed to capture, slow, cleanse and infiltrate street runoff.  With these newly constructed stormwater planters, nearly all of the annual runoff from 12th Avenue is managed by this landscape system – meaning runoff typically does not usually enter the stormwater system.  The challenge of this type of system is finding sufficient space for the planters while minimizing conflicts with other pedestrian elements.  The program has details, photos and suggested installations that address this challenge.

Boston Complete Streets, Boston, MA

Boston’s Complete Streets program incorporates street trees, rain gardens, bio-swales, paving materials and permeable surfaces in a comprehensive study addressing all needs of the public right-of-way.  Great stuff!

But wait there’s more!  Ripe for retrofit are Seattle’s alleyways and  Chicago has a great program as a model. Chicago’s “Green Alleys” incorporate strips or full-width pervious paving and “open-bottom” catch basins.  Read about here:

In our next post we’ll share some of the great things that Seattle is doing…