By: Lori Wisniewski Azzara and Jennifer M. Horn

As a follow up to its 2006 report, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has issued a new report – Rooftops to Rivers II – that provides case studies for 14 geographically diverse Stormwater.jpgcities that employ green infrastructure solutions to address stormwater challenges. These leading cities, which include Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have recognized the beneficial uses to stormwater, thereby reducing pollution and overall costs.

The NRDC estimates that 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater runs off of roofs, roads, parking lots and other paved surfaces a year. By implementing a green infrastructure, cities can not only save money but also minimize stormwater pollution and sewage overflow problems. The report recognizes the multitude of benefits a green infrastructure provides over conventional infrastructures (i.e., underground storage systems and pipes), particularly its cost-effectiveness, flood resilience and augmented local water supply.

The report identified six key actions that cities should take to maximize their green infrastructure investment and become “Emerald Cities,” including:

  • Developing a long-term green infrastructure plan;
  • Enforcing a strong retention standard for stormwater;
  • Requiring the use of green infrastructure to reduce and manage runoff;
  • Incentivizing residential and commercial property owners to install green infrastructures;
  • Providing assistance in accomplishing green infrastructure; and
  • Ensuring that a long-term and dedicated funding source is available to support the green infrastructure investment.

Of the 14 cities, Philadelphia was the only city to achieve all six Emerald City criteria and is the nation’s first city to formally commit to using green infrastructure as the primary means to satisfy its sewer overflow obligations. Pittsburgh achieved one of six Emerald City criteria by passing an ordinance that establishes stormwater volume reductions standards, including a requirement that developments larger than 10,000 square feet retain the first inch of rainfall on-site.

Lori Wisniewski Azzara is an associate at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC. Mrs. Azzara practices in the areas of construction and commercial litigation and has experience in contract negotiation, claims for delay and inefficiency, mechanics’ liens, and all types of contractual disputes.

Jennifer M. Horn is Senior Counsel at Cohen Seglias and a member of the Construction Group. She concentrates her practice in the areas of construction litigation and real estate.