Home > Article > Scaling up Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI)

Scaling up Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI)

It wasn’t too long ago when cutting curbs for capturing stormwater was illegal in Tucson. Only 15 years ago, rainwater harvesting rebels were breaking the law when retrofitting street side curbs to capture and funnel stormwater into basins to water trees and other vegetation.

Curb cuts direct stormwater into streetside basins, or rain gardens, providing free irrigation for trees and other vegetation while reducing flooding and stormwater pollution.We’ve come a long way since then, but we still have a lot of ground to cover. Tucson governmental organizations are being responsive to the fact that we need more trees to help reduce the urban heat island effects. To care for those trees, stormwater is now recognized as an underutilized resource that can be captured by implementing green infrastructure – to not only maintain street side vegetation but to also mitigate flooding.

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) refers to constructed features that use living, natural systems to provide environmental services, such as capturing, cleaning, and infiltrating stormwater; creating wildlife habitat; shading and cooling streets and buildings; and calming traffic. Based on a 2015 report WMG authored in partnership with Ward 1 and Pima County Regional Flood Control District, we require at least a 20% level of adoption of GSI throughout our urban watersheds to achieve flood mitigation results and increase urban tree canopy from 8% to 25% to cool and green our desert city, as well as to sustain appropriate maintenance of these features.

In order to scale-up, Mayor and Council has tasked Tucson Water with developing an annual $3 to $5 million Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Fund. The fund will be supported by a new fee on the city services bill in the range of $1 to $3 per month, and will be used to fund the construction and maintenance of public green infrastructure.

WMG, in partnership with American Rivers, has been helping to advise City staff and elected officials to successfully move a proposal forward for adoption. Mayor and Council expect to vote on the proposal this fall.

What You Can Do

The success of Tucson as a leader in water sustainability and community livability relies on each of you. Please call or email the Mayor and Councilmembers to express your support for this funding proposal. Find contact information at TucsonAZ.gov/city-government. Also, take Tucson Water's survey here

You can also download WMG’s “Green Infrastructure for Desert Communities” as a PDF or purchase the manual from our website at Watershedmg/GSI.