The WRWC was recently featured in Rhode Island Current!

Rhode Island Current published an article spotlighting the PVD Tree Plan and its aims to help make Providence more climate resilient, as well as reduce inequality. Currently, only 27% of the city of Providence is covered by trees, with most of these trees lying on private lands. In an effort to increase the number of trees in the city and address environmental inequalities, PVD Tree Plan proposed planting 30,000 trees throughout the city.

Why is this important? Adequate foliage in a community is shown to slow precipitation that falls to the ground and intercept storm runoff, the article says. This is essential to help reduce stormwater flooding during periods of heavy rains, as well as help absorb some of the runoff and pollution that flows through the streets and subsequently into our local rivers and waterways.

However, around the parts of the Woonasquatucket River that lie within Providence, a large majority of the ground – 75% of the area’s surface area, according to WRWC Stormwater Specialist Sam Blair – are covered with hard asphalt or concrete, such as parking lots and sidewalks. As a result, only 10% of the stormwater that flows in the city gets absorbed by the watershed. According to Sam Blair, this urban paving has “inverted the way that water moves over this landscape.” This means that while planting more trees can help intercept some of the stormwater that falls during a heavy rain, the solution to reducing the severe flooding in the city will take a multi-pronged approach that includes both “green” and “gray” infrastructure. Gray infrastructure refers to urban structures such as paved drainage systems, whereas green infrastructure refers to the incorporation of nature (like planting trees or restoring wetlands and riverbanks) to address climate or urban environmental issues.

The way forward to mitigating flooding in Providence and building up climate resilience is going to take multiple approaches, close collaboration, and innovative solutions that include the restoration of local ecosystems in our urban communities. As Blair says, “There’s a lot of different tools in our toolbox, and if we want to address this issue of urban flooding, which is really complicated and which is getting worse with climate change, we just need all of the tools,”

You can read the full story from Rhode Island Currents here.