ECWA Title Return to ECWA homepage

What is Green
Infrastructure?

When we hear the word ‘infrastructure’, we think of roads and bridges that help people move around. But there’s also a ‘green infrastructure’ – those areas surrounding our local creeks and streams that help convey water in a safe and natural manner.

Why is it
Important?

When our urban centers were designed, engineers at the time removed water from the premises by channeling it into drains and pipes that often overwhelm our local creeks and streams. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

For
Property Owners

The Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association actively maintains the website CreekSmart.org, which explains how Stormwater Control Measures (SCMs) like rain gardens and cisterns can be easily installed at your home or business.

For
Educators

View the Creek Smart® curriculum to teach your students the importance of Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Management.

For
Policy Makers

Read about the impacts that legislation can have on the health and safety of our local waterways.

In the
Watershed

View ECWA’s Green Infrastructure vision for an urban portion of Durham.

Build Your
Own Tour

Choose Creek Smart sites around Durham to see Green Infrastructure in action!

Glossary
of Terms

A collection of words, acronyms, and concepts related to Green Infrastructure

Durham Five Points GI makeover

Durham Five Points Green Infrastructure Makeover

 

GI-XXX

Background

The most densely developed areas of the City and County were built along and on top of the headwaters of Ellerbe creek. The creek receives almost half of all the stormwater runoffRainfall that flows over the ground surface. It is created when rain falls on roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other paved surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground. It is the number one cause of stream impairment in urban areas. from the city creating a huge problem for Ellerbe creek. The 2010 Durham "State of Our Streams" Report lists numerous pollutants in the creek that are directly related to excess stormwater runoff. Ellerbe Creek has been on the list of North Carolina’s most polluted water bodiesOceans, seas, lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers, streams, creeks, canals, etc. since 1998 and stormwater pollution makes the creek nearly uninhabitable for aquatic life and at times dangerous for people.

Ellerbe Creek is the dirtiest stream in the Falls Lake Reservoir Watershed. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous contribute to the current pollution problem in Falls Lake causing algae blooms and elevated bacteria levels leading to human health hazards, fish kills, drinking water contamination, and closed recreational beaches in the lake. Clean-up goals for the reservoir are in place and call for a 40% reduction in nitrogen and a 77% reduction in phosphorus. To restore clean water to the creek, the City of Durham will need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars using traditional stormwater management practices. A new innovative approach was developed to address these problems relying on integrating green infrastructure (e.g. rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement) into the city’s urban landscape to absorb and filter polluted stormwater and slowly release the cleaned, cooled water into the creek to restore its health and make it a more valuable resource for the community.

Stormwater Management: Traditional Infrastructure vs. Green Infrastructure

A city’s urban landscape has not been designed or built to manage stormwater to protect and restore water quality. Traditional stormwater management consists of a network of pipes that collect stormwater, removing it as quickly as possible from the landscape and pipe it directly into nearby creeks and rivers. In contrast, Green Infrastructure mimics the natural landscape; water is cleaned through a network of stormwater management practices that capture and filter rain where it falls. Green Infrastructure reduces stormwater runoff and improves the health of surrounding waterways.

Project Goal

Demonstrate a new approach to stormwater management by integrating green infrastructure into the urban landscape to begin the restoration of the hydrologic balanceThe flow of water in and out of a water system. Primary components are precipitation, evaporation and discharge. in Ellerbe Creek. These changes can make the creek an important asset for the community and add value throughout the city. An additional goal was to show that these techniques can help the city comply with regulation to clean up Falls Lake Reservoir.

 

Research Method

The Ellerbe Creek Green Infrastructure PartnershipEllerbe Creek Watershed Association
Downtown Durham, Inc.
City of Durham
American Rivers
Triangle J Council of Governments
NC Cooperative Extension
with the support of an EPA Urban Waters Grant studied pollutant reductions and stormwater volume reductions that could be made in the Ellerbe Creek Watershed through the implementation of dispersed Green Infrastructure practices. A 467 acre drainage area within the watershed was selected to intensively study because it contains a good mix of both residential and commercial land uses, has a high percentage of impervious area, has significant traditional stormwater infrastructure and is the headwaters of the creek. These factors combine to create an unusually high volume of polluted stormwater runoff and ability to measure impact.

A detailed analysis of the green infrastructure opportunities included a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis, field verification and additional analysis, and detailed modeling using the current regulatory tool (Jordan and Falls Lake Stormwater Nutrient Load Assessment Tool) to estimate the pollution controls.

Results

Read the Green Infrastructure Partnership Full Technical Report.

The research and analysis clearly shows that the implementation of many dispersed green infrastructure practices would result in significant pollution reductions.

Green Infrastructure to be built:

  • 2 Wetlands
  • 40 Green Roofs
  • 246 Cisterns
  • 279 Bioretention Installations
  • 3.7 Acres of Permeable Pavers
  • 2 million sq ft of Green Streets

Predicted Pollution Removal:

  • 38% nitrogen reduction
  • 43% phosphorous reduction
  • 57.3 million gallons of polluted storm water captured and cleaned per year

 

Next Steps

The Ellerbe Creek Green Infrastructure Partnership has developed this vision for new method of stormwater management.

  1. Public participation in advancing this vision and implementing various aspects of the project
  2. City and County policy adoption to evaluate public works projects and integrate stormwater management for water quality where appropriate
  3. Funding for the implementation of green infrastructure practices identified
  4. Additional study to increase the scope of the benefits

And most importantly, long-term positive improvements to our local streams and lakes.

For more information on the Ellerbe Creek Green Infrastructure Partnership, or on how to install a green infrastructure practice on your property, please contact:

Chris Dreps
Executive Director of the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
331 W Main Street, Durham, NC 27701
(919) 698-9729
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 
 

Click this tab again to close the content pane.

Proin elit arcu, rutrum commodo, vehicula tempus, commodo a, risus. Curabitur nec arcu. Donec sollicitudin mi sit amet mauris. Nam elementum quam ullamcorper ante. Etiam aliquet massa et lorem. Mauris dapibus lacus auctor risus. Aenean tempor ullamcorper leo. Vivamus sed magna quis ligula eleifend adipiscing. Duis orci. Aliquam sodales tortor vitae ipsum. Aliquam nulla. Duis aliquam molestie erat. Ut et mauris vel pede varius sollicitudin. Sed ut dolor nec orci tincidunt interdum. Phasellus ipsum. Nunc tristique tempus lectus.

Click this tab again to close the content pane.

Proin elit arcu, rutrum commodo, vehicula tempus, commodo a, risus. Curabitur nec arcu. Donec sollicitudin mi sit amet mauris. Nam elementum quam ullamcorper ante. Etiam aliquet massa et lorem. Mauris dapibus lacus auctor risus. Aenean tempor ullamcorper leo. Vivamus sed magna quis ligula eleifend adipiscing. Duis orci. Aliquam sodales tortor vitae ipsum. Aliquam nulla. Duis aliquam molestie erat. Ut et mauris vel pede varius sollicitudin. Sed ut dolor nec orci tincidunt interdum. Phasellus ipsum. Nunc tristique tempus lectus.

Click this tab again to close the content pane.

Proin elit arcu, rutrum commodo, vehicula tempus, commodo a, risus. Curabitur nec arcu. Donec sollicitudin mi sit amet mauris. Nam elementum quam ullamcorper ante. Etiam aliquet massa et lorem. Mauris dapibus lacus auctor risus. Aenean tempor ullamcorper leo. Vivamus sed magna quis ligula eleifend adipiscing. Duis orci. Aliquam sodales tortor vitae ipsum. Aliquam nulla. Duis aliquam molestie erat. Ut et mauris vel pede varius sollicitudin. Sed ut dolor nec orci tincidunt interdum. Phasellus ipsum. Nunc tristique tempus lectus.

Click this tab again to close the content pane.

Proin elit arcu, rutrum commodo, vehicula tempus, commodo a, risus. Curabitur nec arcu. Donec sollicitudin mi sit amet mauris. Nam elementum quam ullamcorper ante. Etiam aliquet massa et lorem. Mauris dapibus lacus auctor risus. Aenean tempor ullamcorper leo. Vivamus sed magna quis ligula eleifend adipiscing. Duis orci. Aliquam sodales tortor vitae ipsum. Aliquam nulla. Duis aliquam molestie erat. Ut et mauris vel pede varius sollicitudin. Sed ut dolor nec orci tincidunt interdum. Phasellus ipsum. Nunc tristique tempus lectus.

 

2013 Annual Report

It appears you don't have a PDF plugin for this browser but you may click here to download the PDF file.