Photo by Kate Gardiner

New Community of Practice gives Extension and Sea Grant another string in their bow when serving communities

Aging water infrastructure, extreme weather, and pressure from residents for green space and community resilience are bringing about changes to the way cities around the country are thinking about stormwater management. In times past, preferred practices funneled water into pipes underground, moving it away from the built environment as fast as possible. However, these practices can impair water quality and do not always solve flooding problems. Increasingly, communities are considering green infrastructure as part of their stormwater management plan.

From a hydrological perspective, green infrastructure or GI is designed to capture stormwater at or near its origin and allow it to be absorbed by soil, plants, or other media in place. To residents, GI looks like parks, gardens, parking lots, and green roofs, and provides important community co-benefits such as recreational space and pollinator habitat.

In 2018 the Network funded a team of extension professionals and partners from across the region to develop a whitepaper outlining recommendations and barriers for equitable and just GI projects. The team conducted 18 listening sessions across the nation and held a virtual summit aimed at helping communities adapt GI practices to address climate in a way that addresses social equity and environmental justice.

Recently, several members of the team have come together along with partners at Sea Grant to form a GI Community of Practice. The group is working to support outreach professionals advancing community stormwater management and green infrastructure practices by cross-training Extension and Sea Grant professionals on models, methods, and tools to understand and assess GI and stormwater policies, codes, and ordinances.

Currently the team is hosting monthly calls and are working on developing periodic professional development webinars, workshops, and conferences for Extension and Sea Grant professionals and their partners.

“Ultimately we want to help communities. We want to help communities use GI to minimize stormwater runoff and its impacts but also help them understand the potential co-benefits associated with GI including environmental literacy, workforce development, and diversity, equity and inclusion and use GI to further these goals in their community,” notes Lisa Merrifield, a member of the Network’s Leadership Team and member of the Community of Practice executive committee. “We want to serve as a resource for Extension and Sea Grant professionals so they can help their communities explore GI practices. GI can provide so many benefits to the communities – municipalities just need to know about it!” notes Merrifield.

For more information or to sign up to join the GI Community of Practice visit northcentralwater.org/green-infrastructure.

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