California‘s 5-year drought is changing how the state views rainfall in cities, recasting it from a threat to a resource.
“For so long, stormwater was simply a nuisance,” said Keith Lichten of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. “We needed to get it out of the way as quickly as possible to protect structures.”
But stormwater can also be an asset. Instead of directing it into gutters and straight down storm drains, we can capture and clean it in rain gardens and other planted areas.
This green infrastructure mimics the natural water cycle, replenishing groundwater while enhancing our communities and ecosystems. “Green infrastructure is important to the quality of life in the Bay Area, not just to the water supply,” Lichten said.
A trio of recent laws will nudge us closer to making this vision a reality.
Proposition 84 – the 2006 water bond – provides some funding for green infrastructure, including half of a new $3.4 million initiative called Urban Greening Bay Area; the other half is from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Additional green infrastructure funding will come from Proposition 1, which allocated $200 million for stormwater projects with multiple benefits.
Photo of 1952 flooding on Van Nuys Blvd., Los Angeles by Anonymous.