What do Aurora and Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin have in common?
They are among 14 cities from coast to coast that are on their way to becoming “Emerald Cities” as part of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Rooftops to Rivers, II program that promotes the use of innovative green infrastructure to reduce the impacts of storm water runoff and sewage overflows.
Green infrastructure refers to a philosophy and set of management techniques that stops or slows storm water runoff by capturing rainfall and letting is slowly filter back into the soil thus benefiting vegetation and restoring groundwater.
The Emerald Cities program has identified six key actions that any city, so inclined, can take to maximize green infrastructure and become an Emerald City. From the NRDC website the six actions are:
- “Develop a long-term green infrastructure plan to lay out the city’s vision, as well as prioritize infrastructure investment.
- Develop and enforce a strong retention standard for stormwater to minimize the impact from development and protect water resources.
- Require the use of green infrastructure to reduce, or otherwise manage runoff from, some portion of impervious surfaces as a complement to comprehensive planning.
- Provide incentives for residential and commercial property owners to install green infrastructure, spurring private owners to take action.
- Provide guidance or other affirmative assistance to accomplish green infrastructure through demonstration projects, workshops and “how-to” materials and guides.
- Ensure a long-term, dedicated funding source is available to support green infrastructure investment.”
Milwaukee has earned 5 of 6 Emerald City points. Aurora, Illinois has earned 4 of 6 and Chicago, 3 of 6. You can read the case studies of these and the other 11 cities here. Other cities in the Rooftops to Rivers program are: Kansas City, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Portland, Rouge River Watershed, Seattle, Syracuse, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. The Natural Resources Defense Council has identified the issue of safe and sufficient water as and fostering sustainable communities as two of its seven priority working issues. Out of these focus areas has flowed the Rooftops to Rivers Program.