In addition to public works departments, many cities find a driving force for urban forestry is the water and sewer agencies who are responsible for managing stormwater. Buffalo Sewer is one such entity who is fighting for more tree canopy cover throughout the City of Buffalo through its Rain Check program. In partnership with residents, businesses, developers, and local institutions, Buffalo Sewer is finding myriad ways to capture and absorb water in the City and its spaces, with environmental justice and equity as a main priority.
Here’s a pictorial highlighting some of the projects. You can also take a virtual tour of eight ambitious green infrastructure projects in Buffalo through the Rain Check site.
Some interesting facts provided by Kevin Meindl, Green Infrastructure Program Manager for the Buffalo Sewer Authority:
– Buffalo has large amounts of impervious surfaces (where water does not get absorbed) with over 56% of the city being identified as impervious, much higher than peer cities such as Syracuse (41%), Pittsburgh (34%), and Scranton, PA (23%). Large impervious areas contribute large amounts of stormwater runoff to a combined sewer system leading to potential CSO events of untreated pollution to local waterways, increase the urban heat island effect, and reduce the overall biodiversity and ecology of the area.
– The large amount of impervious area in Buffalo is made worse by a lack of tree canopy cover. In 2018, Buffalo Sewer conducted a detailed analysis of existing tree canopy using LiDAR. Results of this work indicate Buffalo has only a 14.6% canopy cover rate, much lower than peer cities Scranton, PA (55%), Pittsburgh (42%), and Syracuse (28%).
– One interesting finding of this analysis was that some areas of the city have significant canopy cover in the street right-of-way with street trees and front yard trees, however other parts of the city have tree canopy that is mostly found in backyards and away from the roadway. When trees are located directly adjacent to and above impervious surfaces such as roads, some of the benefits of trees are enhanced from the interception of rainfall on leaves and the cooling effects on otherwise hot pavements.
– Other findings indicate some neighborhoods and block groups have significantly less tree canopy cover than other areas of the city bringing about concerns over environmental justice and equity.