Green Infrastructure

New Bedford uses green infrastructure to reduce urban flooding, mitigate extreme heat, improve neighborhood livability, and deliver environmental justice.

What is Green Infrastructure?

What is Green Infrastructure?

More intense storms and increased precipitation caused by climate change means that some aging stormwater systems are no longer capable of handling the necessary volume of stormwater. This leads to urban flooding and harmful runoff flowing into waterways. Green infrastructure is one solution to this problem. Green infrastructure refers to a range of methods that use nature-based solutions to store or absorb stormwater to reduce flows to sewer systems or surface waters. Solutions include natural drainage systems (bioswales), rain gardens, permeable pavement, green roofs, and tree planting. 

Green infrastructure is an essential strategy to protect our city from flooding, preserve our water quality by limiting runoff and combined sewer overflows, and enhance our tree canopy and biodiversity

Learn more at the EPA's "What is Green Infrastructure" page.

What is Green Infrastructure?

What's the Challenge with "Grey" Infrastructure?

“During periods of moderate rain, “grey” infrastructure—the human-engineered infrastructure for water management—is an efficient way to transport large volumes of stormwater away from developed areas. During heavy rain events, the volume of stormwater may exceed the capacity of the sewer system, leading to local flooding and discharge of contaminated water into nearby waterways. With ever increasing precipitation intensities resulting from climate change, the City can no longer continue to build its way out of urban flooding issues. Additionally, as we convert more land to hard surfaces, like concrete or asphalt, the volume of stormwater runoff increases, because there is less vegetation to infiltrate the water. Green infrastructure is a solution that can help take the burden off the city’s grey infrastructure by reducing the amount of stormwater entering the sewer system.

Citywide Master Strategy

Green Infrastructure Master Strategy and Implementation Roadmap

New Bedford launched a green infrastructure planning process in 2021 in order to maximize the utilization of green infrastructure throughout the City in a deliberate and strategic manner. Through the proposed Green Infrastructure Master Strategy and Implementation Roadmap, the City will take a holistic look at all of the City’s major drainage areas by:

  • Assessing existing and proposed future drainage and combined sewer system infrastructure outlined in the City’s current plans and projects
  • Identifying green infrastructure opportunities
  • Setting priority actions for implementation

The plan will prioritize environmental justice communities experiencing urban flooding where the additional community benefits from green infrastructure (such as aesthetics, heat reduction, stormwater reduction, water quality improvement) will bring the most value. The proposed plan will also strive to preserve and enhance New Bedford’s coastal areas, rivers, streams, ponds, wetlands and other natural assets. The plan is part of the City's effort to lead by example by demonstrating the tangible benefits of green infrastructure with measurable results.

Citywide Master Strategy

Connection to Past Efforts

The focus on green infrastructure is not new for New Bedford. It has been a long-time priority that was only strengthened by the NB Resilient Climate Action & Resilience Plan. Specifically, this planning process will advance four priority actions from NB Resilient:

• Promote green infrastructure throughout NB parks, streets, and residential and commercial developments

• Find alternatives to pervious surfaces to improve stormwater flow and quality and reduce urban heat island effect

• Develop and implement an Urban Reforestation Plan to increase tree canopy coverage, reduce the urban heat island, and improve stormwater management

• Adopt a city-wide policy to use only native plant species, with a focus on pollinator plantings

Citywide Master Strategy

Environmental Justice

Of New Bedford's 30 census tracts, 93% are designated Environmental Justice (EJ) communities based on the percent of minority, low income, and/or English Isolation residents. Many of the city’s EJ communities are the hardest hit by urban flooding as most are densely developed with some of the oldest infrastructure in the city. EJ communities are also especially vulnerable to extreme heat. To combat these environmental injustices, the Green Infrastructure Master Strategy and Implementation Roadmap will include a special focus on green infrastructure strategies that will benefit  EJ communities. Green infrastructure approaches that increase urban tree canopy, for example, will mitigate extreme heat, store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and improve air quality. The City is partnering with several community-based organizations, such as Groundwork SouthCoast and Old Bedford Village Development Corporation, that represent EJ populations to ensure their voices are centered in the planning process.

Actions You Can Take

Promote Green Infrastructure

Join in the City's efforts by implementing your own green infrastructure practices at home.


Get involved with Greening the Gateway Cities.

Plant trees
Prevent stormwater pollution from your home

Think Blue Massachusetts
Learn how to fertilize your lawn while keeping our water clean

Clean water tips