August 2012, Vol. 24, No.8


Green infrastructure provides solution to runoff

Green infrastructure provides the key to cost-effective management for stormwater runoff, according to a report released by the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), American Rivers (Washington, D.C.), the American Society of Landscape Architects (Washington, D.C.), and ECONorthwest (Portland, Ore.).

The report, Banking on Green: How Green Infrastructure Saves Municipalities Money and Provides Economic Benefits Community-wide, demonstrates how green infrastructure can be more cost-effective, reduce flood damage, and improve public health by reducing pollution in waterways when compared to traditional infrastructure, according to a WEF news release. Such practices as installing green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales, and pervious pavement reduce pollution from runoff.

The report features case studies from cities saving money and enjoying other benefits from green infrastructure. It finds that not only does green infrastructure cost less to install, it also can reduce costs for treating large amounts of polluted runoff.

For example, New York City plans to reduce combined sewer overflows by incorporating green infrastructure with traditional gray infrastructure. This plan will save an estimated $1.5 billion during a 20-year period, the news release says.

“Case studies shared in this report should be helpful to communities around the country and are from areas where green infrastructure is already making a difference,” said Jeff Eger, WEF executive director.

Download the complete report at


NOAA catalogs and analyzes protected marine areas

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has updated its catalog of marine protected areas (MPAs).

NOAA’s analysis shows that 8% of U.S. waters are designated as MPAs, with a majority open to fishing and other activities, according to a NOAA news release.

These geographically diverse MPAs, which are used for different purposes, represent progress toward protecting the country’s marine ecosystems, said Lauren Wenzel, acting director of the National Marine Protected Areas Center, in the news release. But research and analysis are needed to ensure that representatives of different habitats are protected and that current MPAs are managed effectively, Wenzel explained. 

The analysis showed that more than two-thirds of all U.S. MPAs were created to conserve biodiversity, ecosystems, or protected species; one-quarter focus on sustainable production of aquatic species, and approximately one-tenth were established to conserve cultural heritage, the news release says.

Developed from publicly available data with input from state and federal MPA programs, the inventory contains more than 1700 sites and is the only comprehensive data set of its kind in the nation, the news release says. Updated in March, it is available to planners and the public in various interactive formats online at


Deep-ocean ecosystem where hot meets cold boasts new species

A number of undescribed species have been found in the deep ocean where hot meets cold. During an expedition in 2010 off the coast of Costa Rica, researchers explored a rare environment where hot water rising from hydrothermal vents meets a cold area in which methane rises from “seeps” on the ocean floor, according to a University of California–San Diego news release.

The hybrid site, called a “hydrothermal seep” by the researchers, combines vent and seep ecosystem features. It includes a vast cover of tubeworms over large areas and new, undescribed species, said Lisa Levin, leader of the study at the university’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The site, previously reported to have only cold seeps, is located at the Jaco Scar, which is at the margin where an underwater mountain is moving beneath a tectonic plate, the news release says.

Researchers investigated the geochemical properties of the site and the small organisms and microbes present. They ranged from those that primarily inhabit hot vents or cold seeps to those known to exist in both settings. In addition to tubeworms, the researchers documented fish, mussels, clam beds, and high densities of crabs at the site, the news release says. Additional hybrid ecosystems likely remain undiscovered in the deep ocean, possibly featuring marine life specialized to live in these particular environments, researchers said in the news release.

The researchers published findings from the study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. The U.S. National Science Foundation supported this research, and assistance was provided by the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at Universidad de Costa Rica (Mercedes).


Researcher recognized for developing solutions that improve life around the world

Ashok Gadgil has devoted his research to finding affordable ways to provide clean drinking water worldwide. In recognition of this work, he received the 2012 Lemelson–MIT Program (Cambridge, Mass.) Award for Global Innovation.

The $100,000 award supports innovations that advance economic, social, and environmentally sustainable development, according to a Lemelson–MIT news release.

Gadgil, a physicist, is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California–Berkeley and director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Gadgil designed UV Waterworks, a technology that uses ultraviolet light to kill disease-causing pathogens. The technology, disseminated by WaterHealth International Inc. (WHI; Irvine, Calif.), produces clean drinking water at a cost of $0.02 per 10 L. Through WHI, the technology to date has helped provide safe water to approximately 5 million people in Ghana, India, Liberia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, with plans for expansion to Bangladesh.

In addition, Gadgil — along with his colleagues and students, as well as women of Darfur — created the Berkeley–Darfur Stove, the news release says. The stoves require 55% less wood fuel than traditional stoves, saving households $300 per year and reducing the amount of time women spend searching for firewood. By late 2011, more than 20,000 stoves had been distributed, the news release says.


©2012 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.