Water Research Foundation releases report on incentivizing green infrastructure

Published on
12 Nov 2018
Maren Taylor

Green infrastructure (GI) elements, such as green roofs, rain gardens and permeable pavement are widely used in municipalities across the country to address climate impacts, prevent damage and pollution caused by stormwater runoff, and enhance community resilience. GI strategies can also help conserve energy and address social equity. By wisely deploying green infrastructure, communities can realize dividends across the triple bottom line: economy, equity and environment.

In the last decade, local governments have widely invested in green infrastructure on public lands to complement traditional stormwater runoff technologies. As those programs continue to evolve, municipalities are exploring how to incentivize the adoption of green infrastructure on private land, where the largest portion of traditional infrastructure development takes place.

However, cities and counties often face significant challenges when implementing GI incentive programs. Some of these challenges include the need for robust coordination across many city departments, competing priorities for public funds, and a lack of will or education among private sector developers or owners.

Incentivizing green infrastructure can overcome implementation barriers.

To address this, the Water Research Foundation (WRF) brings together a range of perspectives to help practitioners understand and overcome these implementation barriers in a new report: “Incentives for Green Infrastructure Implementation on Private Property: Lessons Learned,” in which USGBC was a participating partner.

Through detailed case studies and analyzing lessons learned, the report aims to help utility and municipal water sector practitioners understand the advantages and disadvantages of current incentive programs to guide them in developing a GI incentive program best suited to the needs and circumstances of their communities.

WRF’s report provides an in-depth look at six types of GI incentive programs: stormwater fee discounts, rebates and cost-share programs, grant programs, development and redevelopment incentives, awards and recognition programs, and stormwater credit trading programs.

SITES and LEED can contribute to a successful incentive program.

The report highlights using third-party certifications such as LEED and SITES as a strategy that can help incentivize green infrastructure by providing value for developers and property owners through competitive advantage and public recognition.

Modeled originally after LEED, the SITES Rating System facilitates the design of healthy, functioning landscapes for projects with or without buildings. SITES promotes green infrastructure through multiple credits that address factors such as water quality, erosion, stormwater runoff and energy conservation.

SITES also guides GI implementation by requiring an integrative design process that includes diverse expert perspectives throughout the design and development process. To ensure sustainable outcomes, SITES front-loads the process to ensure site challenges and opportunities are at the forefront of decision-making, to inform site design and to ensure GI performance.

According to the report, SITES certification further contributes to a successful incentive program because certification can help increase accountability and visibility, build support for GI, provide valuable recognition to innovators that help drive the market and serve as marketing mechanisms for other GI incentive programs. SITES certification can also help relieve some of the administrative burden on a city in adopting and tracking its own standards for sustainable landscapes.

Download the Executive Summary of the Water Research Foundation Report