Stormwater management in Cleveland, OH

Guest post from Matt Gray, Director, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, City of Cleveland. OH

Throughout the world, cities take on more of a leadership role in sustainability when they prioritize the restoration of clean water. For Cleveland, restoring Lake Erie to full health is necessary to ensure the city endures and thrives. This is one of the reasons why Mayor Frank Jackson, in 2009, launched Sustainable Cleveland 2019, a 10-year initiative that engages everyone to work together to design and develop a thriving and resilient Cleveland that leverages its wealth of assets.

To restore Lake Erie, one of the region’s greatest assets, we must reduce the amount of stormwater runoff it absorbs. Fortunately, green infrastructure provides relatively low-cost solutions that contribute to this restoration, while also improving quality of life to city residents. One key to success is policy. In September 2011, Cleveland adopted a Complete and Green Streets ordinance to reduce the environmental impact of our transportation infrastructure, including stormwater runoff.

Cities also need to engage and inspire through programs and outreach efforts. In Cleveland, the City employs students to install 500 rain barrels to residents in every ward through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. The City has provided 2,000 rain barrels to City residents since the program began. The City’s Division of Water Pollution Control also educates residents through its “Only Rain down the Storm Drain” campaign. At the same time, organizations like Drink Local. Drink Tap. reconnect people with local water in tangible activities, such as beach cleanups, World Water Day celebrations, public speaking, art and filmmaking.

These policies and programs are not only a cost-effective approach to stormwater management, but they bring the community together in a very real way. To participate in the conversation, join us at the “Towards a Complete and Green Cleveland” session at the 8th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference.

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