In 2009, Syracuse, N.Y., became the first community with a legal responsibility to reduce combined sewer overflows using green infrastructure. Save the Rain is Onondaga County’s green infrastructure campaign to improve Onondaga Lake’s water quality. By 2018, the county plans to capture 946 million liters (250 million gallons) of stormwater per year by constructing more than 50 green infrastructure projects and offering grants for projects on private property. Investments in low impact development are projected to total nearly $80 million, accounting for about two-thirds of future CSO reductions. Furthermore, according to county representatives, this approach could save up to $20 million compared to traditional stormwater management techniques.

Save the Rain includes some high-cost, high-profile projects, such as the rainwater harvesting system on the War Memorial Arena where captured rainwater is treated and used as ice for the Syracuse Crunch’s hockey rink. The program also includes an urban forestry program that will plant 8500 trees throughout local communities.  According to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, urban trees typically have a life span of less than 10 years. However, Onondaga County is using a product — in this case the Silva Cell — intended to prevent soil compaction and maintain drainage and aeration around the tree’s roots. Proper species selection and maintenance are also important. Check out Save the Rain publications, including a green infrastructure maintenance binder. Read more about Onondaga Lake in Water Environment & Technology (WE&T). Water Environment Federation members receive full access to all online archived issues of WE&T.