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What are Sustainable Greenway Drainage Systems?

Eric Thompson, PE, CFM | with 0 Comments

What are Sustainable Greenway Drainage Systems?

Flooding can be the devastating result of heavy or prolonged rainfalls, or the cumulative effect of a long period of smaller rainfall events. While most news coverage focuses on the catastrophic events like the torrential rain that caused a breach in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, both types of flooding events can cause substantial damage.
In the past, Midwest cities promoted development by enclosing natural drainageways with pipes or storm sewer systems, making valuable land available for construction. Unfortunately, as this development occurred, stormwater runoff increased and these pipe systems frequently experienced flooding, since they could no longer accommodate the capacity provided by the original stream.  Even open channel systems, which have been largely left alone, are suffering the same effects as pipe systems from increased runoff rates caused by development and increasing rainfall intensities.
Benefits of a Greenway Design
While a greenway is almost always wider than the conveyance system it replaces, the area (both in width and depth) susceptible to flooding is reduced by adding storage volume to the drainageway. 
Constructing a greenway substantially reduces environmental permitting issues commonly associated with work in navigable streams or waters of the state. This solution usually presents opportunities to restore habitat and create permanent environmental corridors with built-in development setbacks, positively affecting the environment.
Greenways also provide the added benefit of an intrinsic combination of conveyance and storage. This almost always results in more effective and lower cost implementation than typical flood reduction projects, which often consist of large pipes that collect flows for transport to even larger regional detention ponds.
MSA encourages all communities to consider greenway drainage systems as a method to reduce the impacts of flooding and to improve urban water quality. Sustainable greenway drainage systems require good urban planning development, stormwater planning, and ecological construction practices.
MSA’s dedicated water resources engineering team encompasses a wide range of design services. For more information on greenway drainage systems, floodplain reduction and stormwater utilities, contact MSA’s Eric Thompson. 

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