New Bedford's Green Infrastructure Strategy

Learn more about green infrastructure in New Bedford! 

New Bedford is using nature-based solutions to increase climate and community resiliency by reducing urban flooding, mitigating extreme heat, and improving neighborhood livability. Read more to learn about green infrastructure and how we-re implementing it in New Bedford.

What is green infrastructure?

Runoff from stormwater is a major cause of pollution of local waterways. As climate change brings more intense storms and increased precipitation, stormwater runoff will only continue to increase. Historically, communities have used “grey” infrastructure—the human-engineered system of gutters, pipes, and tunnels—to handle stormwater. Green infrastructure, as opposed to grey infrastructure, refers to the use of nature-based solutions to store or absorb stormwater where it falls in order to reduce flows to sewer systems or surface waters. 

What’s the problem with grey infrastructure?

During periods of moderate rain, grey infrastructure is an efficient to move stormwater to treatment plants. During heavier rain events, the volume of stormwater typically exceeds the capacity of grey infrastructure systems, which can lead to flooding and combined sewer overflows (CSOs), the discharge of contaminated water into nearby waterways. What’s more, the grey infrastructure in many areas is aging, meaning its existing capacity to manage large volumes of stormwater is decreasing. To meet this challenge, many communities are implementing green infrastructure solutions to bolster the capacity of their grey infrastructure systems, while also providing additional benefits. 

What community benefits does green infrastructure provide?

In addition to protecting against flooding and preserving our water quality by limiting runoff and combined sewer overflows, green infrastructure is an essential solution to achieving additional environmental, social, and economic benefits. Increasing vegetation and trees in our city reduces the urban heat island effect and lowers building energy usage by providing shade and reducing indoor temperatures, as well as provides habitat for wildlife and increases biodiversity. By reducing the strain on grey infrastructure systems, green infrastructure can help reduce the cost of managing infrastructure and stormwater. Green infrastructure also promotes economic growth by creating construction and maintenance jobs and providing science and education opportunities. 

What does green infrastructure look like?

Green infrastructure takes many forms. It might include natural drainage systems, like bioswales, rain gardens, more absorbent (permeable) pavement, green roofs, and tree planting.  

Green infrastructure isn’t just for capturing stormwater, it can also provide aesthetic beauty to our community by including native flowers and supporting pollinators. Location: Union Street at Purchase 

Trees are valuable resources for both managing stormwater runoff and increased precipitation, while also increasing shade canopy to reduce extreme heat in urban areas. Tree grates provide protection to reduce the impacts from foot traffic to the tree and soil. Location: Route 18 at Griffin Ct.  

Why is New Bedford implementing green infrastructure? 

Green infrastructure has long been a strategy in New Bedford that was strengthened through the NB Resilient Climate Action & Resilience Plan. In 2021, New Bedford launched an initiative to increase green infrastructure opportunities throughout the city in a deliberate and equitable way through creation of a Green Infrastructure Master Strategy and Implementation Roadmap. The strategy will identify priority locations for green infrastructure throughout the community and make a plan for implementing them, including training for the local workforce. 

What can residents and businesses do to support green infrastructure? 

Everyone can have a role in implementing and supporting green infrastructure throughout New Bedford! Here are a few ways you can get involved: 

  • Participate in the Green Infrastructure Master Strategy process! Stay tuned for our upcoming community survey that will help us identify priority locations for green infrastructure. 
  • Read more about the benefits of green infrastructure and New Bedford’s strategy on our dashboard
  • Plant a tree near your home or business, or help spread the word about the benefits of trees. Check out Greening with Gateway Cities to receive a free tree
  • Prevent stormwater pollution from your home by properly disposing of pet or yard waste. For more tips, look to Think Blue Massachusetts