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The City of Cudahy’s downtown reconstruction set out to accomplish a variety of goals including: making the downtown district an aesthetically pleasing and residential-friendly location for businesses to grow and succeed, repairing and replacing aging infrastructure, and introducing some green infrastructure (GI) elements into the overall project as a starting point for future ideas. Using GI in their plans contributed towards the accomplishment of all three. A couple of different GI types, bioswales and porous pavers, were used in the project. Both help beautify the city while simultaneously helping manage water where it falls. Doing so helps protect Lake Michigan from pollution by reducing stormwater runoff, and helps reduce the likelihood of basement backups and sewer overflows.
Bioswales are landscape features that capture and infiltrate runoff and can also help remove its pollutants. They are depressed catchment areas planted with vegetation, similar to a rain garden, and are usually used along transportation corridors or parking lots. They can be installed as meandering or straight channels depending on the land that’s available, and are designed to maximize the time rainwater spends in the swale.
Cudahy contains a great deal of impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, and driveways. When it rains these hard surfaces create a lot of stormwater runoff that can overwhelm our sewer system or flow directly into our rivers and then into Lake Michigan. In contrast, a porous pavement system allows runoff to soak into the pavement surface and engineered stone layers below. The water then slowly moves down into the ground, or through the underdrain that is connected to the local stormwater sewers. Porous pavement can be asphalt, concrete, or pavers, but is different from traditional pavement because it doesn't have fine materials mixed in. Instead, it provides pore spaces that let water pass through the surface.
Motivated by a will to help manage stormwater due to the large quantity of impervious surfaces, while sending the message to its residents and other communities about the importance of incorporating sustainable development into urban construction, the city intends to use this introduction of GI as a building block and a template for future projects. The ability to capture stormwater and promote groundwater recharge without the use of “grey” infrastructure sets a great example.
Green infrastructure is an approach to wet weather management that is cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. On a smaller scale, green infrastructure practices include strategies such as rain gardens, rain barrels, porous pavements, green roofs, infiltration planters, trees and tree boxes, and rainwater harvesting for non-potable uses such as toilet flushing and landscape irrigation. At the largest scale, the preservation and restoration of natural landscape features (such as forests, floodplains and wetlands) are critical components of green stormwater infrastructure. By protecting these ecologically sensitive areas, communities can improve water quality while providing wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
A Green Luminary® helps protect our rivers and Lake Michigan by adopting practices that harvest rainfall for other uses, or mimic nature, by helping it soak into the ground to reduce water pollution. View previous Green Luminary® award winners from the MMSD service area.
Are you a homeowner, organization or business looking for help on installing green infrastructure? Contact the Fresh Coast Guardians Resource Center to get started today.
Get FREE water by the barrel from your roof and use it when it’s dry outside to use in your landscape. Rain barrels help keep excess water out of the sewer system and help reduce water pollution.