Stormwater Solutions

Conventional stormwater systems are designed to move stormwater quickly and efficiently away from where it falls. Green Infrastructure is a way of constructing our built environment that helps mimic natural systems and slow down, soak up and spread out stormwater. Below are a few examples of green stormwater infrastructure that you may have seen in your own city, town or neighborhood.

Green Roofs or eco-roofs are a type of green infrastructure designed to capture and absorb stormwater from buildings. Green roofs also help with building insulation and can provide habitat for pollinators and other animals in urban settings.

Green roof on the WakeMed Patient Tower in Raleigh. (photo credit

Bioswales are a vegetated channel designed to slow down and filter stormwater. They can also help recharge groundwater sources.

Part of the two acre bioswale at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh (photo credit Landscape Architecture Foundation)

Rain barrels and cisterns are a type of green infrastructure that help capture stormwater for reuse. Usually rain barrels and cisterns are connected to the downspouts/gutters from a roof. Some are above ground while others are installed below ground. The captured water can be use to water plants, and if treated can be used within a building as grey water for toilets, showers, and heating.

Cistern installation at the NC State Ecovillage in Raleigh (photo credit NC State University)

Pervious pavement, also known as permeable pavement, is a type of pavement with high porosity that can be used on sidewalks, roads, and parking lots to help stormwater infiltrate rather than run off. Examples of pervious pavement substrates include some types of bricks, stones, and gravel.

Rain gardens are gardens built in a shallow depression that help capture, filter and infiltrate stormwater during rain events. When properly installed, standing water in a rain garden will be soaked up in 48 hours or less.

A rain garden installation at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, NC (photo credit Buncombe County Master Gardeners)

Trees and urban tree canopies can help reduce stormwater runoff by intercepting and soaking up water through their leaves and roots. Trees also help decrease the temperature of stormwater runoff by providing shade and can prevent erosion by stabilizing stream banks with their roots.

An urban tree canopy on Queens Street in Charlotte, NC (photo credit Trees Charlotte)

A riparian buffer is a strip of vegetation along a waterbody that helps stabilize the banks, filter water, prevent erosion, provide shade, and protect the waterbody from surrounding land uses. Maintaining and restoring riparian buffers play an important role in controlling water quality throughout a watershed.

A riparian buffer along a stream in Eastern North Carolina.

To learn more about the stormwater benefits of green infrastructure, you can visit the EPA Green Infrastructure webpage.