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Green infrastructure and its catchment‐scale effects: an emerging science

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Urbanizing environments alter the hydrological cycle by redirecting stream networks for stormwater and wastewater transmission and increasing impermeable surfaces. These changes thereby accelerate the runoff of water and its constituents following precipitation events, alter evapotranspiration processes, and indirectly modify surface precipitation patterns. Green infrastructure, or low‐impact development (LID), can be used as a standalone practice or in concert with gray infrastructure (traditional stormwater management approaches) for cost‐efficient, decentralized stormwater management. The growth in LID over the past several decades has resulted in a concomitant increase in research evaluating LID efficiency and effectiveness, but mostly at localized scales. There is a clear research need to quantify how LID practices affect water quantity (i.e., runoff and discharge) and quality at the scale of catchments. In this overview, we present the state of the science of LID research at the local scale, considerations for scaling this research to catchments, recent advances and findings in scaling the effects of LID practices on water quality and quantity at catchment scales, and the use of models as novel tools for these scaling efforts. WIREs Water 2018, 5:e1254. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1254

This article is categorized under:

  • Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
  • Science of Water > Hydrological Processes
  • Science of Water > Water Quality
Schematic of low‐impact development (LID) practices at the watershed scale: (a) bioretention system, (b) green roof, (c) rain garden, (d) permeable pavements, (e) a bioswale, and (f) rain barrel (Not to scale). Photo Credits: (a) http://www.nianticriverwatershed.org/our‐programs/water‐quality‐management/stormwater‐management/upcoming‐projects/, (b) ©2009 Diane Cook & Len Jenshel; http://cookjenshel.com/green‐roofs/, (c) https://springfieldohio.gov/city‐services/stormwater/how‐can‐residents‐improve‐water‐quality/, (d) NACTO Urban Street Design Guide; http://nacto.org/publication/urban‐street‐design‐guide/street‐design‐elements/stormwater‐management/pervious‐pavement/, (e) https://www.lakecountyil.gov/2222/Campus‐Bioswales, (f) http://www.ci.hugo.mn.us/rain_barrels.
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Demonstration of the representative elementary scale (RES) concept. The example shows a preidentified acceptable level of uncertainty for modeled or estimated streamflow (y‐axis) that is matched to the spatial extent of a model domain (the spatial scale of the model). The RES is the minimum spatial scale at which an acceptable level of uncertainty in modeled or estimated output is reached. (After Refsgaard et al.)
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The effect of the scale of a measurement or modeling unit on the magnitude of a flow path. The spatial resolution of the measurement or modeling domain may coarsen when scaling up, as demonstrated here by upscaling the representative magnitude of a single flow path of water. The flow path's magnitude may decrease if the grain/pixel/scale of the observations increases (from left to right). This is because the representation of fine‐scale connectivity along the flow path is minimized when upscaling, which thereby dampens the flow path signal. (Reprinted with permission from Ref. Copyright 2011 Elsevier)
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Visualization of the scaling effects of low‐impact development (LID) practices on downstream waters from plot to nested catchment scales (not to scale).
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Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water
Science of Water > Hydrological Processes
Science of Water > Water Quality

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