What would happen if every time a roadway was built or renovated, new green infrastructure that added green spaces and soaked up rainwater was also installed? What if every time a new road is planned, we also planned to include lush tree canopies that naturally lower temperatures? Well, the city of Tucson is no longer asking these questions—they are finding the answers. The city’s Green Streets policy requires that stormwater-harvesting features, such as vegetated streetside basins, be integrated into all publicly-funded roadway development and re-development projects. City officials believe that this will reduce demand on precious potable water supplies for landscape irrigation, increase shade along roadways, enhance the urban forest, reduce flooding, and cut back on water pollution. The adoption of this innovative policy is a lesson in the power of grassroots movement building.
I recently interviewed Tory Syracuse, Associate Director of Watershed Management Group (WMG), the lead organization in developing and helping to adopt the Green Streets policy, to find out more about how the program works. Her answers are below.