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Could green infrastructure projects help control flash flooding?

Colorado River-Drought-Farmers
Posted at 12:36 PM, Jun 27, 2022

DALLAS — As more American cities are dealing with higher intensity rainfall events due to the impacts of climate change, many municipalities are looking toward green infrastructure projects to help mitigate the effects of flooding.

Bardia Heidar and his colleague Sayd Randle are researchers at Texas A&M's Agrilife center. They have spent the last few years studying the impacts of how Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects are lessening major flooding events in American cities.

Instead of installing traditional drainage pipes, many cities and towns opt to build stormwater inlets. They're essentially sophisticated rain gardens, where native soil is replaced with a high infiltration engineered soil mix.

It helps lessen the impacts of flash flooding and heavy rainfall events.

"You're basically tackling the problem with different solutions," Heidari said.

This team is seeing unintended benefits from these projects. Aside from helping to lessen the impacts of flash flooding, green infrastructure is also filtering out pollutants that run off from roads and sidewalks when it rains.

"You have these benefits that are able to double up in what you do with a project," Randle noted.

But while many cities and towns have the money to build these projects, they don't necessarily have the money to maintain them.

"A lot of time, the most marginalized communities for this type of flooding are low-income communities of color. Sometimes what looks like great projects to underserved communities end up being a burden. They entail a lot of work for the people who live there," she added.

All of this comes at a critical juncture in American infrastructure. Many public works departments are seeing an influx of money from the bipartisan infrastructure bill while simultaneously grappling with intensified rainfall events.

An estimated 90% of US cities have seen more intense rainfall events since 1970.