Experts: Houston should use more natural means of managing stormwater runoff

Houston Chronicle
Alex Stuckey

Atop the roof of a Rice University utility plant sit rows upon rows of rectangular plastic planters, green grasses poking through the dirt and stretching toward the sun.

This garden, which blankets almost the entire roof and is known as a "green roof," isn't just for aesthetics. It's for capturing and cleaning rainwater.

Rice has seven of these roofs across campus, a feature known as "green" stormwater infrastructure: the use of soil and plants for water management instead of the more antiquated use of concrete curbs and pipes.

About a month after Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 5o inches of rain on the Houston area, environmental experts are calling on the city to use more of these features to help improve its stormwater solutions.

"There's no question in my mind that green infrastructure and putting in more green space into the urban landscape as part of the plan from day one is really the way to go," said Phil Bedient with Rice's Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center. "I wish Houston would have spent more time and effort doing that."

Green features have been used in urban cities for decades, experts say, but are relatively new in the Houston area. In fact, in a recent report released by Environment Texas, experts ranked Houston fourth out of the five largest cities in the state for encouraging green infrastructure.

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