During large rainstorms, many Illinois residents brace themselves for flooding in their basements, streets and neighborhoods. A new online tool, Illinois Groundwork, provides communities and stormwater professionals with resources on green stormwater infrastructure, which provides a way for rain to be absorbed into soil where it lands.
Green stormwater infrastructure offers a way to enhance traditional or “grey” infrastructure using a rain garden or permeable pavement but this approach doesn’t always work as well as it might. Improving access to, and use of, data, research and other resources can help increase the effectiveness of green infrastructure in addressing stormwater management challenges.
“The University of Illinois not only has relevant research and data across many departments, but also real-world examples of successful green infrastructure, along with other extension and education tools, such as the Red Oak Rain Garden,” said C. Eliana Brown, University of Illinois Extension stormwater specialist. “This new tool brings these resources together, providing a robust platform to access green infrastructure knowledge.”
The project is a collaboration of Illinois–Indiana Sea Grant and Illinois Extension. A critical component of Illinois Groundwork is an Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG)-funded research project that focused on incorporating soils data into green infrastructure design. Soils are the foundation of effective green stormwater infrastructure performance.
“Soil characteristics establish how much and how fast water can move through and absorb into the soil,” explained Margaret Schneemann, IISG water resource economist. “Failing to take soils performance into account means we are not designing green infrastructure as cost-effectively as we could be and may be leaving its benefits on the table.”
“The goal of Illinois Groundwork is to complement and deepen existing community knowledge with better design capacity and soils knowledge to support local decision-making,” says said Mary Pat McGuire, University of Illinois landscape architect, who led the soils research. “Ultimately, design is a social process, people coming together to make a change.”
The web tool outlines a process that users can follow to incorporate soils data into green infrastructure design. Throughout, Illinois Groundwork provides insights into helpful or necessary expertise, specific tasks, and additional resources. It also includes an interactive resource to help optimize green infrastructure sizing and Plant Finder, which covers 119 species, with information on soil type, light and moisture needs for each as well as photos and descriptions.
“Plant Finder helps designers select plants that are best suited for site conditions and promotes designing with maintenance in mind” said Layne Knoche, University of Illinois stormwater associate. Other resources include relevant Illinois regulations, literature addressing a range of green infrastructure benefits, and real-world green infrastructure examples.
Illinois Groundwork was made possible through a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Illinois Extension collaboration grant. For more information or questions about the website, contact the team at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant firstname.lastname@example.org or (765) 496-6009. Stormwater quality is regulated at the federal level via the Clean Water Act contains an amendment (33 USC 1342) creating the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Storm Water Management Program, which the US EPA oversees.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a partnership between NOAA, University of Illinois Extension, and Purdue University Forestry and Natural Resources, bringing science together with communities for solutions that work. Sea Grant is a network of 34 science, education and outreach programs located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Lake Champlain, Puerto Rico and Guam.