A new Green Infrastructure (GI) guide, launched this week at World Water Week, is set to raise much needed awareness of the benefits of GI solutions for water resources management, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
The Green Infrastructure Guide for Water Management: Ecosystem-based Management Approaches for Water-Related Infrastructure Projects is a product of the UNEP-DHI Partnership – Centre on Water and Environment, International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute, and responds to the increasing recognition that GI represents an important opportunity to address the complex challenges of water management.
The publication makes clear that increased efforts to work with GI solutions in water management can result in viable and cost-effective alternatives to grey water infrastructure, as well as support goals across multiple policy areas, including adaptation to climate change.
Examples of GI solutions include constructing wetlands, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, wetland conservation, and introducing flood bypasses, to name but a few. For example, floodplains can reduce flood risk and simultaneously improve water quality, recharge groundwater, support fish and wildlife and provide recreational and tourism benefits.
The capacity of GI to build resilience to climate shocks and variability has also proven to be effective in a multitude of cases around the globe – from conserving mangroves that provide shoreline protection against coastal erosion and storms, to restoring natural floodplains that recharge groundwater and reduce the risk of severe flooding.
The authors of this guide recognize that responses to water challenges are not always a straightforward choice of green vs grey, and that certain water management challenges can benefit from a combination of green and grey infrastructure.
The guide takes the position that the most efficient and cost-effective approach for any given situation must therefore be found by evaluating all available options, grey and green, based on their suitability to local hydrology, resource availability, and other variables, on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to providing an overview of GI solutions for water management, this guide includes an outline methodology for water management options assessment, as well as a risk and uncertainty analysis. The guide concludes with a brief overview of a number of practical tools to support the evaluation of appropriate solutions.