The Green Infrastructure Plan is meant to assist communities in the region as they continue the journey toward a more environmentally sustainable stormwater management program. The plan identifies the three existing infrastructures (stormwater, combined sewers, and roads) where green infrastructure might best be integrated; describes useful criteria for mapping potential green infrastructure facility locations; explores important opportunities and challenges; and proposes workable strategies for local and regional actions that will help to address polluted stormwater flows and meet forthcoming stormwater permit requirements.
Due to the persistence of polluted stormwater flows and forthcoming permit requirements, several Pioneer Valley communities are leading the region in transforming the approach to stormwater management. Through a variety of projects, communities are exploring strategies that promote capture and control of stormwater near to where it falls. This includes the use of natural or engineered systems —such as green roofs, rain gardens, or cisterns. In these facilities, stormwater can be cleansed as it moves through soils and the roots of plants, returned through soils to groundwater (infiltration), returned to the air (evapotranspiration), and/or captured to irrigate plants or flush toilets (reuse). Because these facilities typically use plants to enhance and/or mimic natural processes, they are called “green infrastructure.” These facilities are known as structural practices. Green infrastructure contrasts with traditional “gray infrastructure,” which is typically built to convey rainfall from roofs, parking lots, and streets into catchbasins and pipes to outlet at the nearest waterway.