The growth and expansion of cities has seen the expansion of impervious surfaces, which can lead to stormwater issues. How best to manage that water flow on hard surfaces? Traditional gray infrastructure (pipes and drains) moves water to holding areas or treatment plants. But in the past 25 years the concept of green infrastructure, a water management system that mimics the natural water cycle, has been adopted by practitioners.

This sound great, but what are the perceptions of the average city dweller abut green infrastructure? Researchers Katie M. Spahr, S.M.ASCE; Jessica M. Smith; John E. McCray, M.ASCE; and Terri S. Hogue, A.M.ASCE, wanted to get a holistic assessment from communities on their confidence in different types of stormwater infrastructure, being sure to include equity, access and their related benefits.

The team selected three cities based on diversity in geography, climate, demographics, stormwater infrastructure, and policy landscapes; and then surveyed residents on their attitudes toward stormwater infrastructure. Their paper published in the Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment, entitled “Reading the Green Landscape: Public Attitudes Toward Green Stormwater Infrastructure and the Perceived Nonmonetary Value of Its Co-Benefits in Three US Cities” contributes to the overall GI conversation, as well as the importance of including stakeholders when developing future engineering design.

Read about their results on how geography, gender, and educational attainment impact individual perceptions of stormwater infrastructure in the abstract below or by reading the full paper in the ASCE Library:


Green stormwater infrastructure mirrors natural hydrologic processes and is presented as an alternative or complement to traditional gray stormwater infrastructure, which uses concrete channels and pipes to convey flows away from neighborhoods. To encourage green infrastructure installation, practitioners promote co-benefits, also called ancillary social, ecological, and environmental benefits. Co-benefits are accrued at the neighborhood-scale, yet the public is not often asked to weigh in on its preferred outcomes. This study surveys the public with a goal to move beyond economic valuation to obtain a better understanding of preference for green infrastructure and how respondents value co-benefits. A representative sample of residents in three US cities (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Denver, Colorado; and Seattle, Washington) were presented informational material and then queried for their preference for different infrastructure types and 16 co-benefits. Results show that preferences for stormwater infrastructure, as well as value assigned to associated co-benefits, vary across cities and different demographic groups. Of the three cities in this study, Philadelphia residents had a higher preference for gray infrastructure to handle stormwater in their neighborhood. As the level of survey respondent’s educational attainment increased, so did their preference for new installations of green infrastructure. Perceived value of co-benefits was generally high but varied across different co-benefit/demographic group pairings. The value of community amenity benefits (e.g., increased recreational opportunities) was found to vary between study cities. Public attitudes toward increased property values varied by age and race; attitudes toward community gardens varied by economic security; and attitudes towards improved water quality varied by race. Study results show that stormwater infrastructure and co-benefits are not valued uniformly across demographic groups and vary regionally. We advocate that practitioners engage a representative subset of the population within the appropriate area, especially where infrastructure is planned, to ensure stormwater solutions promote social and environmental equity.

Read the full paper in the ASCE Library: