Harnessing urban stormwater could revolutionize city water management

Cities in the United States have the untapped potential to capture a significant amount of stormwater, which could lead to more sustainable water resource management.

Matt Simon reports for WIRED.


In short:

  • Urban planning historically treated stormwater as a nuisance, leading to innovative infrastructure developments to manage it sustainably.
  • The Pacific Institute reports that American cities generate 59.5 million acre-feet of stormwater annually, a significant potential water source.
  • “Sponge city” methods and smarter infrastructure can aid in utilizing stormwater, mitigating climate change impacts on water resources.

Key quote:

"There really is no reason why stormwater capture shouldn't be up there on the list of water sources for all communities in the country that are looking to secure their long-term supplies."

— Bruk Berhanu, senior researcher at the Pacific Institute

Why this matters:

Effective stormwater management is pivotal for health outcomes, as it ensures a resilient water supply amidst intensifying droughts and floods due to climate change, and plays a crucial role in urban sustainability.

As of 2021, stormwater infrastructure in the U.S. has a grade of "D" from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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