How Can Green Infrastructure Help to Manage Rainfall in an Urban Watershed?
Oct 29, 2020
Urban stormwater management is a growing challenge in many U.S. cities, and climate change is expected to add to this challenge. RAND researchers apply simulation modeling and economic valuation to estimate the potential benefits and costs of a green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) system in Pittsburgh's Negley Run watershed. The authors evaluate a series of GSI investments and make recommendations for how local actors should proceed.
An Evaluation in Pittsburgh's Negley Run Watershed
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Urban stormwater management is a growing challenge in many U.S. cities. Continued population growth, urbanization, and inadequate investment in storm- and wastewater infrastructure have left many cities exposed to sewer overflows, stormwater flooding, and reduced water quality. Climate change is expected to add to this challenge by increasing the intensity or volume of rainfall from storms in many regions. There is also a growing acknowledgment that these vulnerabilities are environmental justice and equity challenges, as flooding and other negative outcomes disproportionately affect low-income or majority-minority neighborhoods.
Pittsburgh's Negley Run watershed is a prime example of these stormwater management challenges, draining a diverse area of Pittsburgh's East End, including neighborhoods that have suffered heavily from underinvestment. It also represents an urgent flood-risk challenge in the city, as heavy rainfall in the area leads to regular flooding of a key road corridor. In this project, RAND researchers use simulation modeling to evaluate present and future risks in Negley Run from sewer overflows and flooding given future rainfall uncertainty. The authors then evaluate proposals for a phased series of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) investments.
In addition to estimating stormwater benefits and implementation costs, the authors provide economic estimates of recreational, amenity, and other cobenefits to local residents; compare total benefits to costs; and explore potential trade-offs. Results show that a centralized system of stormwater management in Negley Run could yield cost-effective sewer-overflow reduction, reduce street flooding, and provide positive net economic benefits across a range of assumptions about future rainfall and implementation costs.
Simulation Modeling and Economic Valuation Methods
Sewer Overflows and Flooding in a Future Without Action
Strategies to Manage Stormwater in Negley Run
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy Simulation Results
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Economic Benefits and Costs
Key Findings and Recommendations
This research was funded by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and 3 Rivers Wet Weather and conducted by the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.
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