Mary Beth Nevulis is the managing editor of Storm Water Solutions. Nevulis can be reached at [email protected]
Jun 30, 2015

The Motor City Goes Green

Detroit has gotten plenty of bad press over the years because of its murder and crime rates, its dilapidated neighborhoods and infrastructure, and its recent declaration of bankruptcy. On the water side, news outlets reported that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) was shutting off service for residents who had not paid their water bills.
But the city seems like it is making an earnest effort to turn things around. The Detroit Future City Implementation Office, an elaborate, 50-year urban planning framework unveiled in 2013 and launched in 2014, includes multiple green storm water retention projects meant to relieve city systems while beautifying the city. Some of those include:
  • The Great Lakes Shoreline Cities Green Infrastructure Project – Near East Side, which deploys green infrastructure to manage and retain storm water in areas that experience combined sewer overflows to the Detroit River. In one area, DWSD will implement various techniques for managing runoff, including bioswales, bioretention and other green infrastructure techniques, and excess runoff will be collected and transferred to storage facilities for use as irrigation in urban agriculture. 
  • The Dendro-Remediation Pilot Program will identify sites where trees can be planted to help reduce and eliminate toxic substances in the soil over time, such as former industrial and commercial sites.
  • DWSD currently charges property owners for storm water drainage costs; through the DWSD Performance Rate Reduction Pilot, the district will review this process and may seek to incentivize storm water management by reducing fees if property owners use sustainable infrastructure on their properties. 
None of these is a prohibitively expensive venture; nor are these particularly revolutionary ideas. Yet not all cities can say they have similar programs. Detroit is working to make itself a better city through these and other initiatives, and the Detroit of the future may well end up a sustainable, desirable place to live.