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Baltimore must invest more in ‘green’ stormwater management | READER COMMENTARY

A road near the Thames Point Apartments was temporarily shut down last month due to flooding from heavy rains earlier in the day. April 30, 2020
A road near the Thames Point Apartments was temporarily shut down last month due to flooding from heavy rains earlier in the day. April 30, 2020 (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

From bioswales in Pittsburgh to permeable pavement in New Orleans, cities across the country are investing in green stormwater infrastructure in order to reduce flooding (“Cities find green ways to reduce storm floods," May 21). As the Sun’s article points out, stormwater runoff is one of the fastest growing sources of pollution in urban areas including Baltimore. Therefore it is critical that we do more now to plan for future management that will reduce flooding and protect our local waterways.

Much of Baltimore was developed before we had “modern” stormwater controls so most of our stormwater rushes straight from streets, rooftops and sidewalks into the nearest stream. Not only does stormwater lead to flooding, it also erodes stream banks and dumps sediment, trash and other pollutants into our harbor and the Chesapeake Bay. So what do we do? Flood management tools like levees and pumping stations can cost a great deal to build and maintain and they can fail catastrophically, as revealed by tragedies like Hurricane Katrina and most recently by the dam breaks in Michigan. Thankfully, there are cities around the country investing in creative green stormwater infrastructure solutions that we can learn from.

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Green stormwater infrastructure mimics the way water is soaked up and stored in nature using vegetation, soils and other practices that reduce stormwater before it floods our streets and homes and pollutes our waterways. And green stormwater doesn’t just help manage flooding. It can also improve air quality, boost mental health and foster greater social cohesion, particularly when the projects are community-led. Green stormwater is the proverbial “win-win” and our city leaders should prioritize this beneficial tool to make Baltimore a healthier and more resilient place to live.

As we experience more severe rain events due to climate change, let’s not wait for another disaster like the 2018 flooding along the Frederick Avenue corridor. Let’s invest in community-based green infrastructure today.

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Taylor Smith-Hams, Baltimore

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