green infrastructure

Protecting clean water takes a village

Written by Tammy Kennon

The Puget Sound region is a sprawling, productive ecosystem with a burgeoning population. Protecting this wonderland means bringing together an equally sprawling number of interests: counties, cities, engineers, scientists, non-profits, large corporations and the public. Is that even possible?

A pilot project in the Perrinville Creek basin says yes.

The Perrinville Creek basin, located in Snohomish County, is a small watershed that packs a punch. As rainfall runs over the paved surfaces and roof tops its 1200 acres of uplands drain polluted stormwater into the creek and eventually into Puget Sound. The basin, which includes the cities of Edmonds and Lynnwood, is part of the Snohomish Conservation District, which offers free help to residents to conserve natural resources.

Bringing together all concerned parties to address polluted runoff in the basin posed a daunting hurdle, but with grant money from Boeing and The Nature Conservancy, the Snohomish Conservation District met the challenge. Working with the city of Edmonds, Edmonds Community College and a nonprofit sustainability organization, they identified, evaluated and prioritized stormwater reduction opportunities in the creek basin.

Their first step was to gauge the interest of the local community, so they sought help from Dr. Thomas Murphy, Chair of the Anthropology Department at Edmonds Community College. Dr. Murphy and his students canvassed homeowners in the basin to measure their interest in natural solutions.

“We let the results speak for themselves,” said Riley. “It was overwhelming.”

Nine out of ten homeowners expressed willingness to install a rain garden in their neighborhood right-of-ways -- and even on their own property. And the majority of community members were willing to help maintain green infrastructure in public spaces.

To identify optimal locations for green infrastructure, Snohomish Conservation District also enlisted the help of the nonprofit Forterra, a regional sustainability organization, to analyze the basin.

For more information please visit the Community-Based Stormwater Solutions for the Perrinville Basin Report

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Puget Sound – It’s Time to Tackle Stormwater

Green Infrastructure Summit Brings Leaders together for Innovative Natural Solution

Written by Jeanine Stewart, Volunteer
Photographed by Paul Brown, Northwest Photographer
Infographics by Erica Simek Sloniker, Visual Communications

Stormwater sneaks up on the Seattle region so innocently, as rain droplets falling through the misty air. Yet when it hits the ground, it picks up bacteria from lawn fertilizers, copper from break pad deposits, oil and other pollutants that become deadly to salmon and Orcas in Puget Sound.

The Washington Department of Ecology calls it the biggest water pollution problem in the entire state, and yet lacks a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem.

That’s why the annual Green Infrastructure Summit each February is so exciting. This event, co-hosted by The Nature Conservancy, brings together key stakeholders to begin a discussion that will lead to collaboration for years to come.

Here, government, non-profit, business and research organizations will share what they’ve done already. There have been some great strides made. Green infrastructure such as rain gardens, which keep stormwater from trickling into places it doesn’t belong, have been installed around the city. However, there simply aren’t enough of them.

 “We have to move beyond projects that are just another cute street, to tackle this problem on a scale thatwill make a difference to all of Puget Sound,” said Jessie Israel, Puget Sound Conservation Director for the Conservancy.

Stormwater pollutes the marine environment, leaving devastating impacts in its wake. A study flagged up by the Seattle Times recently said stormwater runoff can kill adult fish in as little as 2.5 hours.  (Watch the Conservancy's video on this extraordinary research)

Stats like these are why The Nature Conservancy has laid out big goals for tackling this problem. In five years, here’s what we want to see: 

  • 1 billion gallons of stormwater treated using green infrastructure
  • 1 million trees planted or maintained to impact freshwater quality, sequester carbon and benefit underserved communities
  • 20,000 new raingardens in private spaces
  • Green spaces created and enhanced in ways that better quality of life
  • Cross sector, issue, and jurisdictional leaders deploy effective leadership and focus investments in green stormwater infrastructure