GSI is compatible with many different kinds of urban environments throughout Florida.
Many mature Florida neighborhoods feature dated drainage systems designed to quickly move stormwater offsite and into a pond, canal or stream. This flush of water contributes to downstream flooding, erosion and impaired water quality.
With GSI, communities have a useful tool for mitigating these issues in older neighborhoods. For example, rain gardens can replace typical parking islands or medians, permeable pavement can double as drainage and road area, and downspouts can be routed into bioretention cells.
Once you’ve identified an area that would benefit from GSI, be sure to connect with neighborhood leaders to help homeowners understand your plan and what they will gain from it.
When planners, designers and developers incorporate GSI from the start, communities can avoid the common challenges associated with the legacies of conventional gray infrastructure.
Consider establishing Florida-Friendly wetland plants around retention basins, incorporating rain gardens and bioretention cells on right-of-ways to capture runoff, and installing permeable pavement at shared parking lots. Whenever possible, retain the natural vegetation on the property. Many drainage problems can be alleviated by preserving preexisting landscapes and trees during construction.
Downtowns and Walkable Districts
High-density downtown and main street areas can suffer from flooding due to the amount of impervious parking lots and rooftops. However, communities can improve both the form and function of downtown drainage systems with the smart application of GSI.
Turning a vacant lot or old parking area into a passive park can create a pleasant gathering place while doubling as a natural water collection area, which captures the rainwater and allows it to slowly work its way through the soil. On-street features such as tree box filters, permeable pavement and planters also help reduce stormwater runoff while improving the aesthetic and walkability of dense commercial downtowns.
Activity and Transportation Corridors
Transportation corridors along highly developed areas often feature wide rights-of-ways and extensive pavement that may contribute to flash flooding. Stormwater runoff from these impervious surfaces may also carry pollutants into nearby waterways.
Fortunately, even limited application of GSI features along these corridors can reduce runoff and make the area more attractive to travelers, businesses and pedestrians. For example, planted medians (trees, shrubs and grass) can reduce sheet flow over the road, while swales lining the shoulder can capture and filter water as it’s diverted.
Streets and Roads
When building or rebuilding roads, consider incorporating GSI elements to help control stormwater, mitigate flood risk and protect local water quality. “Green streets” can vary dramatically and incorporate a wide range of GSI features, from bioretention curb extensions to simple sidewalk planters.
This Urban Street Stormwater Guide from NACTO can help you get started.
Parks and Recreation Areas
Explore the benefits of incorporating GSI when designing new parks and recreation facilities. For example, consider building large parking lots and long sidewalks with permeable pavement or creating a bioswale to absorb and treat runoff before it reaches nearby waterbodies.
For existing parks, consider installing rain gardens that include Florida-Friendly shrubs and plants. Rain gardens create aesthetic improvements while simultaneously capturing stormwater runoff.
Water Quality Restoration Areas
GSI can help fulfill the goals in Basin Management Action Plans (BMAP). A BMAP outlines regional guidelines for water quality aimed at reducing pollutant loads and restoring the health of springs, rivers and other waterbodies.