Tools & Resources

Green Infrastructure Solutions to Buffalo’s Sewer Overflow Challenge Draft Feasibility Study

Screenshot of the first page of Green Infrastructure Solutions to Buffalo’s Sewer Overflow Challenge Draft Feasibility StudyDownload PDF or View Online

City of Buffalo

Green Infrastructure Solutions to Buffalo’s Sewer Overflow Challenge Draft Feasibility Study (March 2011) was prepared by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper with funding provided by The Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo and the John R, Oshei Foundation.  It was submitted to the residents of WNY and the Buffalo Sewer Authority, as well as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and The United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Feasibility study argues for an aggressive green infrastructure program to be implemented in Buffalo in order to combat the City’s problem of water pollution, caused by habitual municipal sewer overflow discharges.

The Study begins by detailing the detrimental effects that Buffalo’s current Combine Sewer Overflow system has on the environment, health of the community and developmental progress of the City. The Study then proposes a shift from a “grey infrastructure” to “green infrastructure,” the latter being an environmentally conscious approach to sewage management that mimics natural systems, capturing clean water and maximizing the extent it soaks into the ground water table. This approach has both economic and community health benefits, achieving the City’s end goal of creating “swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters.”

The Study notes the necessity of cooperative planning if a green infrastructure program is to be initiated.  The scope of the project requires coordinated efforts from all levels, with emphasis on community inclusion. Indeed, the entire intent of the program is to create livable communities wherein residents can share the recreational resources the waterways provide while not having to worry about health hazards caused by pollution. In line with its goal to produce more equitable communities, the Study mentions that at present, Buffalo’s poor urban neighborhoods bear a disproportionate amount of Buffalo’s sewage pollution impacts.  The green infrastructure program would relieve that burden. Some initiatives involved in the program include:

  • Green Streets Program
  • Green Schools Program
  • Downspout Disconnection
  • Commercial and Industrial Site Greening
  • Green Open Space and Public Parks
  • Green Roofs
  • Vacant Lot Management

The Study also discusses the economic potential of restoring and protecting Buffalo’s waterways; as health conditions improve and pollution dissipates, opportunities for tourism and development rise. The ultimate goal is to promote and protect the Buffalo waterways, creating infrastructure that would promote sustainable development and environmental stewardship. For all these reasons, the plan appears well aligned with the HUD Livability Principles and goals from the Framework for Regional Growth.