Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, now an EPA Superfund site, has a reputation for its pollution, the legacy of years and years of industrial land uses and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). Green Spaces, Blue Gowanus, in partnership with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, identified green infrastructure in private residential spaces — backyards — as a direct, cost-effective, and creative way to alleviate CSOs into the Canal.
In order to understand the stormwater management potential on private property, the students used a case study approach to conduct detailed community and land surveys on residential 1-2 family homes, and multifamily walk up buildings.
Through their analysis, they found that:
- There is the potential to manage stormwater on an additional 32 percent of the watershed
- Residents are willing to invest in managing stormwater
- Diverting rooftop downspouts into green infrastructure is an impactful way to manage stormwater onsite — 48 percent of stormwater runoff could be decreased when downspouts are diverted into green infrastructure
- Surveyed front areaways were largely impermeable, and they serve as opportune sites for green infrastructure implementation
These findings were the foundation of a stormwater management guide targeted to homeowners in the Gowanus Canal watershed, A Community Stormwater Management Toolkit: Taming and Reclaiming to Make Stormwater an Asset. The Gowanus Canal watershed is home to communities that are deeply invested in improving the health of the Gowanus Canal. Through harnessing community efforts the burden on local sewer systems can be alleviated and the frequency of CSOs into the Gowanus Canal can be reduced. The research and stormwater management guide presented in this report can aid in further municipal and community efforts in reclaiming the Gowanus Canal as a clean and viable waterway.