Urban Tree Canopy Project sets sights on improving storm runoff

Urban Tree Canopy Project sets sights on improving storm runoff

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The City of Wilmington has teamed up with Green Infrastructure Center, and the US Forest Service North Carolina Division to come up with a more natural way to divert stormwater.

The Urban Tree Canopy Project and study was created because these agencies were interested in finding cost effective ways to help flood prone areas reduce pollution from runoff into the waterways.

There are six states participating in this study; Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Only a few cities in these states were selected to participate in the program and Wilmington was one of only two cities chosen in North Carolina.

This project is planned to map, evaluate, protect and restore urban forests for improved stormwater management.

By planting more trees in urban areas they can divert the runoff in a natural way as opposed to engineering bigger systems of ponds and pipes to direct the runoff. That would be the natural process of how the trees interact with the rain water. There’s a few ways the trees can absorb the water. When rain hits the canopy of the tree, it takes longer to hit the ground which reduces the peak flow of stormwater systems, such as the piping and ponds. Once the rain makes it to the ground it gets absorbed through roots. meaning less water that goes into stormwater systems.

There are areas of town that flood more often than others due to development but also low lying areas as well. That’s is one of the reasons that Wilmington was chosen for this because it lies in a coastal zone that is susceptible to flooding. in the low lying area of the city, the city is trying to force the stormwater to go where it may not naturally go so it can get overwhelming for the systems that are already in place. Once the water gets into the ponds and pipes, already in place, they have to treat that water which will eventually flow into a natural body of water. So the ultimate goal of this is to reduce the amount of water uptake in these systems.

However, this project hasn’t gone into effect yet. What the city is going to do now is continue to do studies on the areas with the greatest need. Once they have all the final documentation, the city will look at the ways that they can implement the outcome specifically for Wilmington. There will be some variation. Since this project was done across 6 states across the southeast there’s a bit of variability in the data so they will have use the data and apply it to the specific situation and area.

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