Resilience – “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” as defined in the Merriam-Webster. This term can apply to almost any topic, which makes it really handy, but in thinking how a system, like green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), for example, can be re-designed to be resilient to the impacts of climate change, it’s not a simple endeavor.
In 2022, the GI Leadership Exchange through its Collaborative Grant Program funded the Climate Resilience Resources Guide (CRRG): Part 1. The overarching goal of this project was to support the GI Exchange Members from coast to coast and north to south across the U.S. and including Canada with advancing (or even just approaching) the topic of integrating climate change adaptation and resilience into local GSI programs.
But why the GI Exchange? Why not just have municipalities and other agencies doing this work just take on their own efforts locally?
Though it may seem counterintuitive to leverage the network to support this pressing issue for almost anyone working in the field, especially given the breadth of geographic space and the extreme variability in climate change trends as well as regional strategies and policies in place for addressing climate change related to stormwater and GSI, in hindsight it makes a lot of sense why this worked so well, and why the GI Exchange and the Collaborative Grant Program is so important for local program development and on-the-ground impact.
- Leveraging expertise – The CRRG project team comprised representatives from the five agencies below, representing significantly different geographies, climate regimes, and programs involved in the work.
- City/County Association of Governments, San Mateo County
- City of Baltimore
- Philadelphia Water Department
- City of Portland
- San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
- Water Front TorontoWithout the GI Exchange network and without the Collaborative Grant Program, it would be next to impossible to convene this diverse group and range of expertise, including planners, program managers, GSI design staff/engineers. This incredible group also brought important considerations of the impacts of, adaptive response strategies to and overall perspective on the challenge of integrating climate resilience into GSI programs.
- Taking a “broad brush” – The project team intentionally envisioned the created the CRRG as a “table-setting” type resource of agencies to advance local efforts on integrating GSI and climate resilience. Recognizing the many potential areas to drill into and the nuances of regional climate trends and local policies and practices, the team found there would be significant value in summarizing at a high level how climate trends are showing up in the data from region to region, across different hazards, and then focusing in on how, generally, GSI policy, planning, design and operations, and maintenance can be reconceptualized to account for future change and better responsiveness properly. In this fashion, the CRRG is accessible and applicable to any GI Member and yet provides tangible context and consideration to take local work to the next level. It also includes an appendix of tools to get started on the technical work. Again, there’s no other place that this really makes sense to do other than via the GI Exchange, and this grant was the path forward to produce the outputs and advance the industry. It’s also unlikely that one might find a funding program, other than through other philanthropic foundations, perhaps, that have a broad enough mission to support a comprehensive, but 30-thousand-foot view on how to overcome institutional and technical barriers on a far-reaching and uncertain topic such as climate change with respect to GSI. The Collaborative Grant Program is the perfect venue.
- Phasing – The CRRG was also intentionally proposed to be developed in parts or phases, to allow for further resource advancement and innovation as the work evolves. Part 2 of the CRRG, which was just awarded for the 2023 Collaborative Grant Program cycle (Yay!), will take the next step of evaluating and generating decision support tools to identify and overcome the institutional and programmatic pinch-points in effectively integrating GSI and climate resilience. We were able to bring back the same project team and consultant leads to advance the next leg of work and through the increased funding will be able to combine both parts into a fantastic-looking and highly usable digital or printable resource that really will be a one-stop shop for building or starting out on any climate adaptation-based GSI program.
We look forward to the final product!
– Reid Bogert, Senior Stormwater Program Specialist at City/County Association of Governments, San Mateo