It is not easy being green: Recognizing unintended consequences of green stormwater infrastructure

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9 Scopus citations


Green infrastructure designed to address urban drainage and water quality issues is often deployed without full knowledge of potential unintended social, ecological, and human health consequences. Though understood in their respective fields of study, these diverse impacts are seldom discussed together in a format understood by a broader audience. This paper takes a first step in addressing that gap by exploring tradeoffs associated with green infrastructure practices that manage urban stormwater including urban trees, stormwater ponds, filtration, infiltration, rain gardens, and green roofs. Each green infrastructure practice type performs best under specific conditions and when targeting specific goals, but regular inspections, maintenance, and monitoring are necessary for any green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) practice to succeed. We review how each of the above practices is intended to function and how they could malfunction in order to improve how green stormwater infrastructure is designed, constructed, monitored, and maintained. Our proposed decision-making framework, using both biophysical (biological and physical) science and social science, could lead to GSI projects that are effective, cost efficient, and just.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number522
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research received no external funding. The first author was supported by a fellowship from the National Science Foundation (grant number 00039202). The ninth author was partially supported by the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Hatch/Multistate project MN 12-109).


  • Bioretention
  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental justice
  • Green gentrification
  • Green infrastructure
  • Ponds
  • Stormwater
  • Sustainable development
  • Urban trees

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