Chicago Learning Greener Ways to Manage Stormwater

When it comes to stormwater management, Chicago is taking cues from the city of Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has set an example in stormwater management the Chicago area should follow to reduce flooding, making waterways cleaner and give a welcome economic boost to struggling communities.

Chicago has recently started looking into how Philadelphia handles stormwater flooding with a process called “green engineering.” Green engineering is known for reducing stormwater runoff without building bigger sewers or more costly treatment plant, which Philadelphia incorporates within its water systems. Like Chicago, Philadelphia is a river city that also has older neighborhoods that use “combined” sewers, which carry both rainwater and sewage. As in Chicago, that means when increasingly heavy storms overwhelm the treatment system, the overflow into waterways carries untreated sewage and polluted runoff.

Instead of building larger sewers and unsightly treatment plants, Philadelphia decided to take a risk on what environmentalists call nature-based infrastructure. It has built hundreds of subsurface storage projects, storm water tree trenches, porous pavement projects, and more that reuse storm water or intercept it and let it absorb into the ground or evaporate.

The addition of green spaces using green engineering can bring many positives to Chicago; for instance, mitigating against health issues such as asthma attacks and heat stress, help the ecosystem and make the city more vibrant. The decentralized nature of green infrastructure can also make it easier for the city to steer maintenance and other work to a variety of smaller businesses that are owned by and employ minorities, women and the disabled.

Compared to Philadelphia, though, Chicago has quite a bit of work to do in the green engineering space, but it’s heading in the right direction.

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