Large volumes of stormwater inundate New York City sewers each time it rains, causing 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted stormwater to be discharged each year into local waterways – where New Yorkers live, work and recreate – through Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO). Capturing stormwater on land can prevent sewage and toxins from polluting our waterways, while creating multiple benefits for upland neighborhoods. Widespread on-land stormwater management can make it possible for New York City waters to meet the Clean Water Act standards for safe swimming and fishing, while meeting local sustainability goals of creating more green open space, cooling and cleaning the air we breathe, reducing our energy costs, generating accessible green jobs. To achieve this, multiple agencies, both public and private, must collaborate toward this end.
Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (S.W.I.M.) is a coalition dedicated to ensuring swimmable and fishable waters around New York City through natural, sustainable stormwater management practices – called Green Infrastructure – in our neighborhoods. This approach is environmentally and fiscally responsible because it utilizes stormwater, currently viewed as waste, as a resource. S.W.I.M. members endorse a truly sustainable view of watershed management; one that restores ecological systems, creates local economic opportunities and equitably distributes the benefits of Green Infrastructure (GI) in NYC.
I. Affect change through policy
- Incorporate GI into the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s CSO Long Term Control Plan
- Create incentives for on-site stormwater management techniques in the private sector and ensure that existing incentives are accessible and effective.
- Advocate for reform of land use and planning tools such as ULURP, building codes, comprehensive watershed planning, and zoning language to advance GI.
- Introduce, track and update legislation to require collaborative city/wide watershed planning.
- Continue to advocate for city-owned buildings and property to become examples of GI implementation, showcasing retrofit and green building techniques, stormwater management on vacant lots, and permeable alternatives for parking lots, roads and sidewalks.
II. Education and outreach
- Create an effective public notification system that alerts the public on the location and occurrence of CSO pollution.
- Foster a meaningful public participation process for planning, implementing, monitoring and maintenance of GI, involving the public as local partners from planning to long-term stewardship.
- Share accurate and appropriate information and educational tools among our member organizations and with the public via our meetings, events, website and correspondence.
III. Implementation and monitoring
- Pioneer multi-agency cooperation and agency collaboration with local stakeholders to facilitate community-led stormwater management practices such as:
-Urban forestry (GI in Greenstreets, natural areas, parkland, street trees)
-Composting and soil remediation
- Prioritize GI implementation in neighborhoods that demonstrate a need for the multiple benefits provided by GI, such as locations with low open space ratios, frequent flooding, active waterfronts (working waterfront or recreation areas), and high asthma rates.
- Through our member organizations and working collaboratively with agency partners, create and maintain monitoring protocols and maintenance plans that expand our collective understanding of GI and support adaptive management.