Graham Sustainability Institute

Green Infrastructure on Vacant Land: Mitigating Aquatic Stressors of Urban Ecosystems through Green Stormwater Infrastructure

August 2018

G. Allen Burton, Shawn P. McElmurry, & Catherine Riseng.

Report topic:
Scholarly research on the effects of GSI on urban stormwater flows and water quality.

NEW-GI (Neighborhood, Environment, and Water research collaborations for Green Infrastructure) contributes to knowledge about green infrastructure in legacy cities by integrating research about water quality, community well-being, governance and ecological design. Involving community, government and academic collaborators, it produces evidence-based guidance for sustainably managing stormwater in ways that enhance landscapes and the lives of residents in Detroit and other legacy cities.

NEW-GI ecological designs link Detroit’s vacant property demolition process with new forms of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) that aim to manage stormwater as well as increase nearby residents’ well-being. This research uses a transdisciplinary design-in-science approach, in which researchers, practitioners and community members work together to contribute knowledge addressing social and ecological objectives. NEW-GI researchers assess the performance of different GSI designs and governance approaches. This assessment provides evidence for making decisions about how GSI can better achieve objectives.

Functionally, GSI is implemented to improve water quality and mitigate deleterious effects of enhanced urban flows (i.e., water quantity). As GSI evolves, its purpose is increasingly recognized to be broader than simply altering the quality and quantity of stormwater flows; rather it is viewed as a cost-effective means of enhancing the resiliency of rigid urban systems and maximizing ecosystem services (Vogel et al., 2015). As a basis for understanding GSI and to support decisionmaking, this white paper synthesizes peer-reviewed scholarly literature about GSI’s potential and performance in managing urban stormwater and improving downstream water quality.

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