During this Monday’s downpours, storm-gawkers captured video of flooding on Dallas’ Abrams Road. Last May, firefighters rushed to rescue a young couple caught in a creek’s rapidly rising waters just north of White Rock Lake.
Extreme weather events like these have battered Dallas in recent years, with environmentalists sounding the alarm that it’ll only get worse amid a changing climate. But in a Tuesday news release, the organizations behind a joint report offered a glimmer of hope.
Green stormwater infrastructure (also known as GSI) can help urban flood resilience through its use of Mother Nature, said Dr. Kathy Jack, Dallas Healthy Cities Program director at The Nature Conservancy in Texas.
“As the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex continues to grow and develop, it is imperative that we preserve and integrate nature into the fabric [of] our communities,” Jack said by email.
The Nature Conservancy and Texas A&M AgriLife announced the report in collaboration with the city of Dallas and the Trust for Public Land. It estimates that implementing GSI could be 77% cheaper than a gray infrastructure upgrade on its own. (Gray infrastructure can refer to structures like pipes, culverts and ditches that are aimed toward flood prevention.)
GSI can be easy on the eyes because it beautifies concrete jungles through luscious green landscaping. It also allows for a decrease in pollutants, including pesticides and car fluids, that get carried into streams and bodies of water during storms.
“Green infrastructure provides multiple benefits for city residents — especially in rapidly growing areas like Dallas-Fort Worth.” – Suzanne Scott, The Nature Conservancy
Plus, GSI mirrors Mother Nature’s capacity to filter and absorb water, an important feature for urban areas. In Texas, Houston and San Antonio are embracing the technology, as are other cities nationwide, such as Philadelphia and Raleigh.
Dallas-Fort Worth is outpacing other metro areas in terms of growth, meaning concrete and asphalt are continuing to encroach on the region’s natural land, according to the news release. These human-made surfaces don’t absorb rain, and Dallas’ current stormwater drainage system is overtaxed in certain areas, paving the way for a spike in floods.
“This GSI analysis is an excellent reminder that nature-based solutions should always be at the forefront of policy and planning discussions,” Suzanne Scott, the conservancy’s Texas state director, said by email. “Green infrastructure provides multiple benefits for city residents — especially in rapidly growing areas like Dallas-Fort Worth.”
One of the research’s key findings is that GSI can help Dallas’ stormwater management in areas such as Cedar Creek and Joes Creek, plus the Five Mile Creek Watershed and parts of the White Rock Watershed.
It also indicates that green infrastructure can cut water overflows for all storms modeled by up to 31%, potentially decreasing creek flows, as well as overbank and areal flooding.
The report also highlights the opportunities that parking lots provide for additional GSI. Such bioretention areas “can capture, treat, and infiltrate portions of surface stormwater runoff through engineered soil, before draining to the gray stormwater network,” according to the news release.
“Balancing the growth of cities with conservation requires thoughtful, collaborative planning,” Jack said in the release. “Nature can improve overall community health and resilience when integrated into the fabric of our cities.”