Performance and Effectiveness of Urban Green Infrastructure: Maximizing Benefits at the Subwatershed Scale through Measurement, Modeling, and Community-Based Implementation

A research team from Swarthmore College and Johns Hopkins is conducting a study on Philadelphia's Green City Clean Waters program to document how best to manage innovative urban stormwater practices that reduce runoff volume at the source. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $4 million to four colleges in Philadelphia, including Swarthmore, for a long-term project aimed at stemming the polluted water gushing from sewer overflows during heavy rains by incorporating green infrastructure projects throughout the city.

Swarthmore College called on Ben Hobbs from Johns Hopkins University to co-investigate the project and to quantify performance versus costs of developing green infrastructure to retain or redirect water than would normally run off into the ground where plants and soil will naturally filter the water. The researchers have been engaging municipal and community partners in all stages of the research project to document and share knowledge of the costs, benefits and performance of green infrastructure technology.

Learn more about the EPA-funded study

Research Team

Principal Investigator (PI)

  • Arthur McGarity, Professor of Engineering and Environmental Studies, Swarthmore College 

JHU Collaborators

  • Ben Hobbs, E²SHI Director and Professor, JHU Department of Environmental Health and Engineering
  • Fengwei Hung, PhD Candidate, JHU Department of Environmental Health and Engineering

Other Collaborators

  • Megan Heckert, Assistant Professor of Geography and Planning, West Chester University
  • Christina Rosan, Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University 
  • Claire Welty, Professor of Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) 
  • Shandor Szalay, Senior Vice President and Director of Water Resources Practice, AKRF, Inc. 

Learn more about the project

Stormwater basin in Philadelphia. A stormwater basin is a vegetated depression designed to store,
infiltrate and/or slow stormwater runoff that would otherwise cause flooding and erosion.
Photo credit: Philadelphia Water Department

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?
— Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985