The logic behind green infrastructure as a sustainability solution is pretty obvious. Conserve, maintain, restore, and enhance naturally occurring ecological processes and we will benefit. Unfortunately, much of the green infrastructure occurring in the US is retroactive and reactive, particularly in urban areas. In many cases, green infrastructure is being considered as a solution (namely to manage stormwater as part of compliance measures under the Clean Water Act) where gray infrastructure systems either need extensive repairs or development pressures have have exceeded existing capacity. These cases often demand a cost-benefit analysis of green versus gray solutions to determine whether green solution will achieve necessary water run-off reductions and at a comparable cost. There has been a deficit of cost-benefit research, largely because it’s difficult to measure and there hasn’t been time to determine outcomes, but these studies are starting to come out — supporting the case for green infrastructure solutions.
ECONorthwest has been a significant contributor to measuring and reporting the cost-benefits of employing a green infrastructure approach, namely for addressing stormwater management challenges. Some of the recent reports they have released include:
Banking on Green: A Look at How Green Infrastructure Can Save Municipalities Money and Provide Economic Benefits Community-wide (April 2012) is a report produced as a collaboration between ECONorthwest, Water Environment Federation, American Rivers, and the American Society of Landscape Architects focusing on the costs of stormwater pollution and the potential benefits of addressing this problem with green solutions.
The Value of Green Infrastructure (2010) was co-produced by American Rivers and the Center for Neighborhood Technology as a means of providing relative social, ecological, and economic values for the many functions and features of green infrastructure systems.