Nature Based Solutions: Portland’s Green Streets

In March the UN published the World Water Report, a 100 page document, showcasing the need to change our normal global water management practices to start to embrace “nature-based solutions” in order to keep up with the demand for fresh water.  “Nature-based solutions” include things like protecting and installing wetlands to soak up flood waters, rehabilitating degraded soils so they can retain more water, recharging groundwater aquifers, and the widespread adoption of farming practices that manage soil so it retains as much rain water as possible. In celebration of American wetlands month, we decided to showcase the City of Portland’s “nature-based solutions” constructed along Portland streets and neighborhoods.

In the early 2000’s the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services started the Green Street Program to test and implement new cost effective solutions to localize stormwater infiltration in efforts to reduce runoff flowing into the city’s pipe network. Bioswales, rain gardens and stormwater planters, use plant materials and specialized soil mixes to treat, absorb, and convey stormwater runoff from roadways and parking lots into the storm sewer systems or other retention areas. These built wetlands, retain the water and reduce sediments, turbidity, heavy metals, and pollutant loading, entering the stormwater system and the Willamette River. By slowing down and holding water, they also recharge both surface water (rivers, streams) and ground water.

These created wetlands in combination with the Eastside Big Pipe and Westside Pipe Projects, have reduced sewer overflows into the Willamette River from 50 events to 4 or 5 events per year! Thank you to the City of Portland for pioneering and implementing natural based stormwater solutions!

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