Working With the Market for Green Stormwater Infrastructure

A new report by Willamette Partnership and Storm and Stream Solutions, LLC summarizes how stormwater managers can spur cost-effective implementation of green stormwater infrastructure while tapping new sources to finance that investment. It’s called, “Working With the Market: Economic Instruments to Support Investment in Green Stormwater Infrastructure.”

Over the next 20 years, communities across the U.S. are likely to invest upwards of $150 billion in stormwater infrastructure and the associated impacts on water quality, hydrology, and health. Tomorrow’s stormwater solutions will need to meet broad watershed goals, provide benefits to the local community, and be flexible in the face of a changing climate – all without a big price tag. This daunting task has stormwater managers thinking twice about how to get the most out of their infrastructure dollars. They are looking to green infrastructure for a cost-effective multi-benefit alternative to concrete and steel, and for creative ways to raise the capital to install those projects.

Green stormwater infrastructure manages rain where it falls and keeps urban runoff from reaching water bodies. It is often highly cost effective, and provides numerous benefits to the local community, including economic development, enhanced climate resilience, and improved health and air quality.

At Willamette Partnership, we see nature as our original infrastructure. This report provided an opportunity to bring our expertise in market-based conservation and scaling policy innovations into collaboration with powerful partners in the stormwater sector. Authored by Carrie Sanneman, our Clean Water Program manager, and Seth Brown, principal/founder of Storm and Stream Solutions, LLC, the report delves into a suite of policy tools, called “economic instruments,” that recognize and deliberately work within the economic system to create action or drive investment toward environmental goals. They include incentives, subsidies, trading, and mitigation. Economic instruments are a useful tool for stormwater managers because they can:

  • Increase the coverage of green infrastructure on public lands, private lands, new development, and urban retrofits;
  • Provide flexibility and reduce cost for regulated entities trying to meet stormwater requirements;
  • Provide a vehicle for both public and private investments; and
  • Enhance the efficiency of delivering benefits associated with stormwater infrastructure.

Stormwater managers can use this new report to learn how to encourage implementation of green infrastructure on private property, like this living green roof. Photo: Simon Garbutt

This report is a product of the National Network on Water Quality Trading (National Network) 2016 fall dialogue, which gathered over 50 experts in stormwater management and water quality trading for a two-day interactive dialogue about the paths for communities to best apply these economic approaches to meet their stormwater goals. The dialogue workshop was convened in collaboration with Paula Conolly and Mami of the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange, Dan Vizzini of Oregon Solutions, Seth Brown of Storm and Stream Solutions LLC, and in partnership with Water Environment Federation’s Stormwater Institute. The content and takeaways from that dialogue are heavily featured in this report, including a) the motivations that drive investment in stormwater infrastructure; b) a set of program options that work with market forces for more effective and efficient investment in stormwater infrastructure; c) the issues that limit these approaches; and d) the ways to get beyond these hurdles.

Storm and Stream Solutions LLC, Willamette Partnership, and the Water Environment Federation’s Stormwater Institute will host a number of events to describe and discuss the report’s content.

Register for a free webcast presentation (June 8 10AM Pacific/1PM Eastern) on workshop and report findings, or join presentations at the 2017 StormCon and WEFTEC conferences.

Carrie Sanneman was Willamette Partnership’s Clean Water Program Manager. She specializes in collaboration for clean water and natural infrastructure. Carrie holds an interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School and Bachelors of Science in Biology and Environmental Studies from Iowa State University.


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