Points of Entry

Proponents of urban forestry and green infrastructure can choose a number of routes by which they can influence stormwater policies, programs, and regulations. Each item below will include a brief description before the link.

Comprehensive Plan Review or Redevelopment

Comprehensive planning offers a useful platform for engaging all stakeholders – since every agency and every neighborhood literally has a tangible interest in the outcome.

Stormwater and Water Quality Plans and Permits

Dane County, Wisconsin and the City of Madison provide a policy framework and guidance for federal, state, and local water quality protection programs. This resource emphasizes the importance of cooperation and coordination among local governments in the region, and municipal departments in each community.

Transportation Plans and Pending Projects

Transportation corridors constitute the major share of publicly-owned and controlled land, and the primary focus of stormwater management.  Many communities integrate green and gray infrastructure to save money while reducing flow.  The natural elements do much more than control stormwater; they energize street-scapes, attract pedestrians and shoppers, reduce pollution and help conserve energy.  Many communities are merging efforts to build Complete Streets with Green Streets

Public Building Construction, Especially Schools

“Show me” speaks louder than “tell me.” Public projects can serve as models of integrated green and gray infrastructure – demonstrations of how they mesh operationally and economically, and what benefits together they deliver to stakeholders.

Low-Impact Development Controls

These can be introduced community-wide, for special zoning districts, or for specific project types.  Low-impact development methods emphasize nature-friendly site planning, and preservation of pre-development site characteristics [including stormwater flow].

Neighborhood Redevelopment Initiatives

Many cities – small and not-so-small – are rebuilding themselves.  Often, when large sites [even entire neighborhoods] are slated for renewal, many different municipal departments can come together to plan for a greener setting with more natural landscapes – satisfying many different objectives at once.  Bonus:  different agencies have their own funding streams that can contribute to the cost of the project.  Check out case studies for brownfields, business district revitalization and distressed neighborhoods.

Capital Project Plan Reviews

Charlotte, North Carolina, requires sign-off [literally] from their urban forestry staff at every stage of every capital project. Needless to say, this makes it [much] easier to insure natural elements are included in site and building plans.

Watershed Protection Campaigns

Water quality depends on watershed-level action.  Many municipalities participate in watershed councils.  Working with partners, each member can plan initiatives that both complement and amplify the impact of individual efforts.  Examples abound, from mandated watershed-wide entities [for example, the Chesapeake Bay Program which spans seven states] to Philadelphia’s partnership with surrounding NGOs.

Sustainability Plans

Many communities – large and small – have developed multi-dimensional sustainability plans.  Virtually all embrace protecting and enhancing the natural resources that make urban spaces liveable.  For a summary of success stories [and guidance on how to make it happen in your own community], check out the STAR Community Index.  The Sustainable Communities Partnership knit together programs from three Federal agencies:  HUD, EPA and DOT.

Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plans

Particularly for cities subject to severe weather events, these types of plan – while aiming at resilience – also offer a framework to establish goals and develop policies to protect natural resources.  Urban forests almost always can play a significant role in stormwater management and, to a lesser but still relevant extent, in flood control.  Baltimore’s plan covers all the bases.

Zoning, Development, Site and Subdivision Design Ordinances

Whichever of these regulatory approaches one chooses, by applying low-impact design principles, communities can exercise significant influence on the extent of impervious cover in new developments and the practices required to manage on-site stormwater. The Resource Library contains model ordinances and codes applicable to many different-sized communities.

Types of Economic Analysis to Inform Policy Decisions

Capital Cost Assessment
  • Up-front costs: land, construction, materials
  • One-time expenses – not including O&M

Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Comparison of financial or monetized benefits to costs [NPV lifecycle analysis if possible]
  • Quantified and monetized financial, environmental and social benefits [“triple bottom line”]
  • Qualitative description if necessary
Life-Cycle Cost and/or Benefit Component
  • Life-cycle costs over the life of the project, including installation, operations, replacement, maintenance, disposal, financing
  • Life-cycle benefits
  • Life-cycle net benefits
Cost-Effectiveness Analysis
  • Capital or life-cycle costs as measured over comparative and uniform time frame, for example the cost per pound of a specific pollutant removed
Fiscal Impact Analysis
  • Impact of development or land use change on costs and revenues of governmental units
Benefit Valuation
  • Quantification of benefits in non-monetary terms, e.g. number of increased visitor days, gallons of stormwater stored or infiltrated on site
  • Monetization of these benefits, e.g. avoided treatment costs
Quantitative Ranking Based on Self-Described Non-Monetized Benefits and External Costs
  • Qualitative description of benefits and costs
  • Ranking of benefits according to agreed-to scale, e.g. 1 to 5


Often, community-specific natural resource data won’t be readily available, or easily layered into GIS analyses.  You can find alternatives – workable but less precise – from public data sources.  Or, try yourself to create a simple sample-based inventory of your own.



Don’t rely too heavily on case studies – especially from communities in a different climatic or soil zone.  As one tree advocate from Southern California put it: “There’s not much we can learn from studies done in places where rainfall is three times what we get, and drought doesn’t matter.”  Look to communities like yours and tap their experience.