A Growing Market Sector That Bears Watching

Many cities’ stormwater management systems are already benefiting from the incorporation of green infrastructure, and the funding opportunities for these projects are more accessible than you think—you just have to know where to look

By Mary Nabers

Here’s something that will shock most taxpayers. Projections are that cities will spend an estimated $150 billion in stormwater infrastructure projects over the next 20 years. That will create a very large marketplace but the action has already started.

Spending is increasing at an incredible pace and stormwater projects are being launched throughout the country. The time to get on the bandwagon is now.

Often called green infrastructure projects, their objective is to keep urban runoff from reaching bodies of water. Green infrastructure is being incorporated in transportation initiatives, urban renewal projects, flood control efforts, and in the development of parks and cityscapes.

When stormwater is controlled, the benefits are enormous. There is a safety aspect along with enhancement of water quality, but green infrastructure projects serve other objectives as well. They beautify neighborhoods and urban areas, provide support for natural habitats, reduce extreme summer temperatures, and improve air quality.

Cities would be launching more projects of this type if their budgets were not so constrained, but that hurdle may be removed soon. There are many sources of funding from federal, state, regional, and nonprofit organizations now and additional funding programs are anticipated.

At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants funding for green infrastructure projects through a number of programs. Some of these include the Green Streets Program and the Green Towns (G3) Program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has funds. Look for these in the Community Development Block Grants program. And, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has funding through transportation grant programs such as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program as well as the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

More than 20 communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia received grant funding for projects designed to reduce stormwater runoff. Projects should be announced from these cities in the near future.

There are other upcoming opportunities to watch. The California Board for the State Coastal Conservancy recently awarded a $4 million grant to the city of Los Angeles for a stormwater project in the San Fernando Valley.  The city will supplement that funding and launch a $19 million project that will include design, construction, bioswales, plants, and infiltration galleries.

Another upcoming opportunity to watch will be coming from the city of Detroit. The city was recently awarded $2 million to fund the design and pre-construction phase of a project to connect a 26-mile non-motorized path and greenway that incorporates land around the Inner Circle Greenway. Additional contracting opportunities will result from this work.

The city of Oswego, N.Y., announced a project to transform a section of West Bridge Street into a pedestrian and bike-friendly streetscape with sidewalks, crosswalks, and sidewalk bump-outs. Green infrastructure will be a key component of the entire project.

Gary, Ind., officials are soliciting input related to an upcoming project to convert six vacant sites into parks that incorporate green infrastructure elements. The project will reduce stormwater runoff into the city’s sewer system. It will also beautify the neighborhood for citizens who live in the area.

It’s advisable to watch for grant winners of the Great Lakes Emerging Champions Mini-Grant Program. This funding will be designated to small and medium-sized communities for projects to improve water quality and to manage stormwater.

Green infrastructure – it’s an extremely large and diverse growing market sector. Opportunities will be abundant and demand will dwarf supply in the next few years.

Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S.