Pinellas County’s focus on green infrastructure to increase sustainability and resilience
Resilient Pinellas Action Plan, released in June, has identified a number of initiatives for the County to undertake to make our community more sustainable and resilient, including increasing our use of green infrastructure practices. Pinellas County has been making strides toward green infrastructure programs and projects since the implementation of its Stormwater Manual in 2017.
The renewed focus on stormwater – the leading cause of pollution in Tampa Bay – is particularly important to our community. A lack of space in the state’s most densely populated county limits the ability to treat stormwater conventionally, so innovative technologies are necessary as the County continues to redevelop.
So, what is green infrastructure?
Green infrastructure describes practices for managing stormwater or stabilizing shorelines that mimic nature in how they function, creating habitat and a host of other benefits in the process.
A good way to illustrate this concept is by reviewing two scenarios for managing stormwater runoff – one “gray” and one “green.” When rain falls in undeveloped areas (i.e., those that are completely natural), the water is filtered by plants and the soil. In developed areas, most of the rainwater cannot soak into the ground because of the increase in paved (impervious) surfaces, causing the stormwater to pool and to flow to the lowest point in the area. This stormwater “runoff” ultimately flows into the closest waterbody in the landscape, carrying fertilizer, petroleum products, animal waste and litter which degrade water quality. The graphic (figure 1) below depicts how the amount of impervious surface affects the amount of stormwater runoff produced.