Green Space: The Overlooked Component to Flood Resiliency


DURATION 2 minute read

In urban areas, it can be difficult to dedicate scarce open land to stormwater detention. Doing so requires municipal leaders and engineers to find innovative ways to improve drainage, increase detention capacity, and reduce flood risk for their communities. In the City of Houston, our team partnered with Houston Public Works and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department to help the city develop strategies utilizing existing parklands to improve the city’s resiliency towards severe storm events and more efficiently manage stromwater.

From reforestation to detention basins, there is a range of flood mitigation designs that can be implemented in your community’s parks and green spaces to help increase flood resiliency. These strategies are not a one-size-fits-all, and there are a few important steps that should be taken before deciding which flood mitigation strategy meets the needs of your community, such as identifying the type of flooding impacting your area.

Here are a few of the many ways parklands and open green spaces can be used to reduce flood risk for communities:


Above Ground Storage

Dry Detention Strategies

Many common community amenities such as sports fields, walking trails, and playgrounds can also function as dry detention with some thoughtful design. A dry detention basin\depression area is essentially an empty pond designed to temporarily store stormwater that is then released at a controlled rate. During dry weather, these amenities are available for the community to use, and during storm events, these areas can be designed to hold water to help reduce flood risk and street ponding in the neighborhood.

Dry Detention Strategies

What is a Dry detention basin

Wet Detention Strategies

A wet detention basin is an artificial pond that includes a permanent pool of water, typically with vegetation around the perimeters. This type of basin tends to provide more stormwater storage for the same footprint as dry basins while also helping improve stormwater quality. There are multiple benefits to retrofitting a park with a wet detention basin, including increased stormwater detention, expanded wildlife habitats, and improved aesthetics.

Wet detention basin City Place

What is a Wet Detention basin

Underground Storage

Water can also be directed to drain and accumulate underneath community amenities, parks, and open spaces in underground storage facilities. This strategy allows land being used for sports fields, playgrounds, splash pads, or parking lots to double as stormwater detention, which means the land can be used more efficiently.

Underground Storage

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is a design toolbox that mimics rainfall behaviors. GSI designs come in many shapes and sizes that can be implemented across a range of surface areas to meet the needs of your community. These designs can range from planter boxes along the sidewalk and permeable pavement in the parking lot to reforestation and constructed stormwater wetlands.

GSI helps reduce stormwater flow to sewer and conveyance systems, minimizes localized flooding, helps recharge groundwater, improves area hydraulics, and reduces irrigation expenses. The exact benefits of each GSI strategy vary, so be sure to check out the guidebook we created for the City of Houston to determine which strategies would best meet the needs of your community.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

By building strong partnerships and implementing innovative mitigation measures, cities across Texas and the United States can build their flood resiliency and ensure our communities are prepared for the next storm.

A lot goes into determining which mitigation strategies fit the needs of your community. Our Hydrology & Hydraulics experts will work with you to create solutions that better protect your community from flooding risks.

You can learn more about our experience with flood resiliency by checking out our work on the Cypress Creek WatershedBuffalo Bayou Park, and the City of Houston Guidebook.


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