New York: Turning sewage into savings

When a sprawling urban city like New York's drainage system can be overwhelmed with the smallest amount of rain, what can be done?

When a sprawling urban city like New York's drainage system can be overwhelmed with the smallest amount of rain, what can be done?

Less than an inch of rain, and raw sewage can find itself sent out across the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, wildlife refuges and surrounding land. According to Co.Exist, this is a 30-billion-gallon-a-year issue caused by small amounts of rain -- and as the city continues to grow, it is likely to become worse.

Peter Lehner of NRDC writes in his blog:

"New York City has officially joined a growing number of cities around the country in embracing a smarter--and paradigm-shifting--approach to reducing water pollution."

By using techniques that view excess stormwater as a resource rather than inconvenience which ends up in underground pipes -- usually one set that handles water and waste -- only to force cities to dump runoff into the nearest waterway, New York is one of a number of cities, including Philadelphia, that are now investing billions to change a century-old practice.

Some of the changes include strategically located street plantings, porous pavements, absorbent soil and green roofing -- known as "green infrastructure".

The idea is to clear away some of the excess that New York's pipes have to cope with, while using stormwater as a resource that may improve the general health of its inhabitants.

The city's Department of Environment Conservation estimates that these measures could save $2.4 billion by reducing the stress on waterways by two billion gallons per year.

"It's a complete paradigm shift in how we think of the 'problem’ of stormwater," noted Lehner. "Instead of trying to get rid of this 'excess' water as fast as possible, we are turning it into an opportunity to make cities more livable places, with cleaner air and greener neighborhoods."

Under an agreement between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City Department of Environmental Protection, approximately $187 million over the next three years will be invested in developing a greener infrastructure. $2.4 billion of public and private funding over the next 18 years will also be invested in order to combat the city's stormwater "problem".

Image credit: Flickr

(via Co.Exist)

This post was originally published on


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