Older cities like Pittsburgh are not unique: We created any number of challenges when we first built atop our natural systems, eliminating woodlands and streams that functioned well to cycle stormwater from land to rivers. While it’s impossible to return to that kind of city, it is possible to use (carefully) the large networks of remaining green spaces to update the substandard water and sewer infrastructure we currently have. Rather than trying to engineer over, through and around our natural areas once again, green infrastructure offers us a win-win solution.
Please read the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy president’s piece “Soaking Up the Rain” (March 9 Forum). Myriad solutions are required for the stormwater problems in our region, and projects like the ones underway in Schenley Park are a prime example. Everything done in upstream, green areas like those in the park will benefit the environment downstream. As a community, we should put our support behind this and similar projects and demand that the sort of monitoring and documentation described for the Panther Hollow projects are done elsewhere. The monitoring should quiet naysayers who believe that it’s too hard to prove that green infrastructure really works or that it will pay off over time.
We will no doubt learn that sustainable approaches to our infrastructure woes are cheaper and better over time. We’ve already proven that the alternative (read: traditional, gray) approach is woefully outdated and prohibitively expensive.