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Blue Cities Initiative - Charles River Watershed Association

CRWA's Blue Cities Initiative incorporates the design of natural green corridors and infrastructure to help treat stormwater runoff before it enters the Charles and its tributaries, through plant filtration and infiltration into the ground – all while enhancing neighborhoods and connecting existing open spaces.


Restoring Natural Hydrology to the Urban Environment

As in most cities, metropolitan Boston’s water cycle has been radically altered. Drinking water is piped in from 65 miles away, sewage is piped out to Deer Island Treatment Plant in Boston Harbor, streams are now buried and pavement prevents rainwater from seeping into the ground. These changes increase flooding and pollution, and impact groundwater levels. The loss of streams and floodplains parallels the region’s loss of open space and green corridors. The best way to reduce water problems in urban areas is to design cities so that they mimic the way nature handles water.
Natural__impervious_cover_diagrams_EPA
 Impacts of Urbanization on the Natural Water Cycle, Image source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Massachusetts receives about 45 inches of precipitation every year. In the natural environment, almost half of this rainfall filters into the ground, and nearly all the rest returns to the sky as water vapor. In cities, we have paved over the ground and cut down many of the trees that turn water into vapor. The result: well over 50 percent of the rain in a typical year quickly becomes polluted stormwater runoff. Developed areas are designed to collect and discard rain quickly, dumping runoff in rivers through storm drains. Bigger storms overwhelm the system, resulting in flooding and, depending on the infrastructure, combined sewer and sanitary sewer overflows.

To make rain once again an asset that replenishes aquifers, and to reduce the pollution from stormwater and the risk of flooding from storm events, CRWA is working to reengineer urban landscapes to function more naturally. By designing natural green corridors and infrastructure that can soak up water and carry it slowly through the city, “Blue Cities” designs also enhance neighborhoods and connect existing open spaces.

How CRWA Achieves Blue Cities

Blue-Cities-vision
Restoring urban greenscapes and natural hydrologic function is at the heart of CRWA’s Blue Cities Initiative. Using historic maps as a starting point to understand how rainwater once functioned before urbanization, Blue Cities analyses evaluates opportunities for restoration that work with, rather than against, natural hydrology.CRWA evaluates soil types, historic groundwater flow, and historic versus constructed drainage patterns. This information forms the basis for retrofitting buildings, streets and parking lots to capture and treat runoff, connect isolated greenspace, and create greenways – in effect, mimicking historic natural conditions. 


CRWA’s work includes partnering with others to build and monitor our demonstration projects, modeling the potential impacts of large scale Blue Cities designs, and training other environmental advocates, local residents, and municipal officials.

Projects within the Blue Cities Initiative fall under three main categories. To learn more about CRWA’s current Blue Cities projects, explore the links below:

Green Infrastructure Demonstration Projects
Community Collaboration
Science and Technical Analysis

About Blue Cities Initiative:

Green Infrastructure Demonstration Projects
Community Collaboration
Science and Technical Analysis
Project Resources



Project Manager:

Blue Cities Iniative - Charles River Watershed Association

Pallavi Kalia Mande
Director of Blue Cities
Bio | 781.788.0007 x232 |
Email


Learn more about our work:

Key Projects
-- Blue Cities Exchange
-- Climate Change Adaptation
-- Field Science
-- Law, Advocacy & Policy
-- Smart Sewering
-- Twinning