Innovating Stormwater Management Practices to Keep Pace with More Frequent and Intense Rainfall

by ecoRI News Staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island is experiencing increasingly intense storms, as the number of extreme precipitation events — more than 2 inches of rain in less than 48 hours — occurring annually has doubled since 1914, according to the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition.

These storms increase the risk of inland flooding and strain Rhode Island’s stormwater infrastructure. To address this growing problem, the state’s first Stormwater Innovation Expo, hosted by the Green Infrastructure Coalition, a coalition of 37 nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies focused on better managing stormwater, featured cutting-edge green infrastructure technology and strategies suited to the Ocean State’s unique characteristics and challenges.

Educational talks were given by representatives from the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District, Groundwork Rhode Island, Fuss & O’Neill Engineering, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, and the Pare Corp. The expo was held Oct. 30 at the Casino at Roger Williams Park

Engineers from the Horsley Witten Group and Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions joined Brian Byrnes, the city’s deputy superintendent of parks, to lead walking tours of stormwater practices in and around Roger Williams Park. The city is investing $1.5 million in natural infrastructure to prevent stormwater pollution at the popular park.

The Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition is partnering with the city of Providence to create the state’s first Stormwater Innovation Center, at Roger Williams Park. The center will be using the installations as a training resource to advance stormwater management practices throughout Rhode Island. The tours highlighted insights about green infrastructure design, construction, and maintenance.

“As the reality of climate change creates increasingly intense storms, this work is more important now than ever,” said Sara Churgin, district manager for the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District and co-chair of the recent expo. “The collaboration between private and non-profit organizations in this space is absolutely vital to the success of our mission. We must all work together to ensure the future health of our community environmentally and economically.”

Stormwater is generated when rain hits a hard surface and begins to trickle across the surface. Along the way it picks up fertilizer from lawns and landscaping, animal waste, automotive fluids, sand, salt, chemicals, and debris and dumps this polluted runoff into a drain or directly into a river or pond. The result is water that is unsafe for human use or for aquatic ecosystems.

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