Environment
4:36 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

U of L Conference Outlines Possibilities, Existing Barriers to Green Infrastructure

There are already a number of green infrastructure projects underway in Louisville—green roofs, rain gardens, pervious parking lots, to name a few. But experts say there’s still a lot of untapped potential. A conference today at the University of Louisville looked at those projects and discussed how to expand the efforts.

In Louisville, there have been issues in the past with water. After heavy rainfall, the excess water goes into the combined sewer, where it mixes with other kinds of waste. If it overflows, it ends up in creeks and tributaries around the area.

Gordon Garner of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance says for years, infrastructure has focused on moving water away from properties and to streams as quickly as possible.

“We’ve done damage to our streams, the water quality, the way we’re doing things is not given us good results,” he said. “So we’ve got to reverse it. And we’ve got to look at water as a resource from the time it falls from the sky to whatever happens to it next.”

Engineers are beginning to look more toward “green” ways to keep the extra water out of the sewer system to prevent overflows. Most of the solutions involve absorbing rainwater by putting back some of the soil and vegetation that was removed when the city was built.

But at the conference, speakers also outlined some of the barriers to the green infrastructure.

“We’ve got regulatory barriers, technical barriers, education barriers, those are the main things that we’re dealing with,” Garner said. “The technical issues are being solved. You can see that in the presentations we’re seeing. The bigger results are in our own self-imposed limits on what we do and how we do it. We’ve just got to change our ways.”

Garner says it’s important to educate the public about why allowing water to be stored on their properties can ultimately save money and be better for the environment.

Conference participants also heard from Matt Millea, who works in Onondaga County government in upstate New York. The county, which includes Syracuse, has undertaken ambitious green projects and received recognition for their efforts