Every year, 377 million gallons of combined sewage overflow (CSO) empties into the Gowanus Canal, one of America’s most polluted waterways. While in recent years New York City has worked to reduce that amount by investing in grey and green infrastructure throughout the canal’s watershed, most of the new storage is hidden from sight. Residents can’t see the 12 million gallons of added capacity, because they don’t see the amount of water the two new, large sewage detention tanks and network of ninety curbside bioswales retain.
What if they could?
Traditional green infrastructure hides the runoff it manages. Imagine if we celebrated our storm-water by growing the future of our streetscape!
In 2016, we used the common, commercial dumpster to transform the Gowanus streetscape. One dumpster holds 2,000 gallons of water—the same capacity as the City’s new bioswales—and serves as an aboveground visualization of that volume. Each dumpster serves as a kind of public art installation, a visual statement about the importance of retaining stormwater to prevent CSO, while also acting as a nursery for future street trees. Similar efforts could be applied elsewhere, placing temporary bioswales anywhere with minimal construction. The goal: to raise awareness and rally support of permanent solu-tions.
Across the city streetscapes could be transformed to manage stormwater, provide shade, and beautify neighborhoods 2,000 gallons at a time!