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Water: Low Impact Development

Low Impact Development (LID)

What's New

EPA Releases Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure Programs (PDF) (142 pp, 2MB, About PDF)

EPA Releases Section 438 Guidance to Help Federal Facilities Better Manage Stormwater

New Water Quality Scorecard to help municipalities pinpoint and remove barriers to LID.

EPA releases new DVD called "Reduce Runoff: Slow it Down, Spread it out, Soak it in!" that includes four educational videos that provide an introduction to controlling runoff in urban areas.

EPA Releases Video Highlighting RiverSmart Homes in Washington DC

Washington D.C. skyline

RiverSmart Homes: Getting Smart about Runoff in Washington, DC

EPA Releases Video Highlighting Green Builders in Philadelphia

Photo of green building in Phildadelphia.

Building Green: A Success Story in Philadelphia

For more information visit:

Green Roof  A green roof in the middle of dense urbanization can slow down and reduce rainfall runoff from the roof in Arlington County, Virgina. (Photo courtesy of Ansu John)

Green landscaping in a parking lot

Green landscaping within impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, can help reduce runoff.

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LID is an approach to land development (or re-development) that works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. LID employs principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features, minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage that treat stormwater as a resource rather than a waste product. There are many practices that have been used to adhere to these principles such as bioretention facilities, rain gardens, vegetated rooftops, rain barrels, and permeable pavements. By implementing LID principles and practices, water can be managed in a way that reduces the impact of built areas and promotes the natural movement of water within an ecosystem or watershed. Applied on a broad scale, LID can maintain or restore a watershed's hydrologic and ecological functions. LID has been characterized as a sustainable stormwater practice by the Water Environment Research Foundation and others.

LID Works Everywhere

LID can be applied to new development, redevelopment, or as retrofits to existing development. LID has been adapted to a range of land uses from high density ultra-urban settings to low density development.

LID and Green Infrastructure

"Green infrastructure" is a relatively new and flexible term, and it has been used differently in different contexts. However, for the purposes of EPA's efforts to implement the Green Infrastructure Statement of Intent (PDF) (4 pp, 42K, About PDF) EPA intends the term "green infrastructure" to generally refer to systems and practices that use or mimic natural processes to infiltrate, evapotranspirate (the return of water to the atmosphere either through evaporation or by plants), or reuse stormwater or runoff on the site where it is generated. Green infrastructure can be used at a wide range of landscape scales in place of, or in addition to, more traditional stormwater control elements to support the principles of LID.

To learn more about how EPA is promoting green infrastructure to manage wet weather impacts in urban areas, please visit EPA's Green Infrastructure Page. Be sure to read EPA's 2008 Action Strategy for green infrastructure (PDF) (38 pp, 946K, About PDF)

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Fact Sheets

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  • Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure Programs (PDF) (142 pp, 2MB, About PDF)
    This technical report was prepared to help utilities, state and municipal agencies, and other stormwater professionals understand the  potential benefits of low impact development and green infrastructure (LID/GI) programs. The report highlights different evaluation methods that have been successfully applied in 13 case studies, and also demonstrates cases where LID/GI have been shown to be economically beneficial.
  • Stormwater to Street Trees (PDF) (35 pp, 2.7MB, About PDF)
    This guide focuses on the use of integrated siting and design elements, along with case studies, to provide education on enhanced tree management systems to improve stormwater management and retention. The guide illustrates proper tree planting and maintenance techniques and technologies. It also provides information on using engineered systems and guidance on the myriad issues involved, such as maximizing root growth area, media, permeable pavements and overall site drainage, right-of-way management, and utilities considerations. The document will be of particular interest to municipal public works engineers and arborists, water utility planners, state and local water quality agencies, and non-profit organizations focused on water resource protection.
  • Green Infrastructure Case Studies: Municipal Policies for Managing Stormwater with Green Infrastructure (PDF) (76 pp, 8.2MB, About PDF)
    This report presents the common trends in how 12 local governments developed and implemented stormwater policies to support green infrastructure.
  • Reducing Stormwater Costs through Low Impact Development (LID) Strategies and Practices
    This report provides information to cities, counties, states, private-sector developers and others on the costs and benefits of using Low Impact Development (LID) strategies and practices to help protect and restore water quality.
  • Rainwater Harvesting: Conservation, Credit, Codes, and Cost Literature Review and Case Studies (PDF) (41 pp, 517K, About PDF)
    This technical guidance document describes emerging practices involving rainwater harvesting. These practices have the potential to supplement water supplies, manage stormwater and provide a number of additional environmental benefits. This document will be of interest to water utility planners and engineers, municipal public works planners and engineers, and non-governmental organizations interested in promoting water reuse. (January 2013, EPA-841-R-13-002)
  • Low Impact Development (LID) Literature Review and Fact Sheets
    This report, which was developed by EPA in cooperation with the LID Center, contains a summary of the current monitoring and effectiveness data on LID practices. Fact sheets describing four LID case studies are also available.
  • Low Impact Development Overview and Examples Exit EPA Disclaimer
    Chapter 12 in the 2001 report Stormwater Strategies: Community Responses to Runoff Pollution by the Natural Resources Defense Council provides an overview of LID and showcases several LID case studies.
  • Rooftops to Rivers: Green Strategies for Controlling Stormwater and Combined Sewer OverflowsExit EPA Disclaimer
    National Resources Defense Council policy report that describes ways local decision makers can implement green techniques to reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering local waterways.

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Design and Guidance Manuals

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Information Resources and Centers

  • EPA New England LID Site
    Learn about Low Impact Development efforts across New England from EPA Region 1.
  • Stormwater Management at the EPA Headquarters Office Complex
  • Web site describing a stormwater management demonstration project at EPA Headquarters.
  • LID for Big Box Retailers Exit EPA Disclaimer
    Developed with input from a major big box retail corporation, this EPA-funded manual is designed to provide large building and site footprint high volume retailers with strategies that integrate innovative and highly effective LID stormwater management techniques into their site designs for regulatory compliance and natural resource protection.
  • 12,000 Rain Gardens Exit EPA Disclaimer
    This is a Seattle/Puget Sound area initiative. 12,000 Rain Gardens is a rain garden campaign to protect the Puget Sound led by Washington State University and Seattle-based Stewardship Partners. The campaign states that "meeting the goal of installing 12,000 rain gardens ...would soak up 160 million gallons of polluted runoff to protect our waterways, significantly helping stop the stormwater crisis that is threatening our waterways.
  • National Association of Local Government Professionals Web Cast on Low Impact Development and Watershed Management Exit EPA Disclaimer
    Archived webcast on LID strategies, including local government case studies.
  • Low Impact Development Center Exit EPA Disclaimer
    The Low Impact Development Center was established to develop and provide information to individuals and organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and water resources through proper site design techniques that replicate pre-existing hydrologic site conditions.
  • Using Rainwater to Grow Livable Communities Exit EPA Disclaimer
    Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) developed this comprehensive resource site to encourage sustainable stormwater practices that caters to several distinct audiences of decision makers, engineers and landscape designers. The site includes case studies, an educational toolbox and resource links.
  • Puget Sound Low Impact Development Exit EPA Disclaimer
    This site describes low impact development activities occurring in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.
  • Green Values Stormwater Toolbox Exit EPA Disclaimer
    This site, hosted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, features a green values stormwater calculator and other resources related to green infrastructure. It also provides online access to their pocket guide, Water: From Trouble to Treasure.
  • Green Infrastructure Public Gallery Exit EPA Disclaimer
    Photo gallery of green infrastructure projects.

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Videos and Other Multi-Media

  • RiverSmart Homes: Getting Smart about Runoff in Washington, DC
    This 12-minute video from 2010 highlights RiverSmart Homes, a program that was launched in 2006 by the District Department of the Environment, as a way to combat Washington, D.C.'s serious stormwater problems and to actively involve the community in the river's restoration. Thanks to this unique urban waters partnership, homeowners in diverse city neighborhoods are enthusiastically adopting environmentally friendly landscaping practices to reduce the effects of stormwater runoff and help bring back local rivers and creeks.
  • Building Green: A Success Story in Philadelphia
    In 2010, EPA's Office of Water produced this 11-minute video that highlights innovative efforts by green builders in Philadelphia who are helping protect and restore environmental quality and beautify the city. The video features the work of Philadelphia’s Onion Flats LLC, a company that is designing residential buildings with the highest ratings for energy and water efficiency.
  • Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In
    In 2009, EPA and the U.S. Botanic Garden produced a 9-minute on-line video that highlights green techniques such as rain gardens, green roofs and rain barrels to help manage stormwater runoff. The film showcases green techniques that are being used in urban areas to reduce the effects of stormwater runoff on the quality of downstream receiving waters.
  • Reining in the Storm - One Building at a Time Exit EPA Disclaimer
    This engaging 30 minute streaming video explains low impact development to the uninitiated. It is ideally suited for educating local government officials and key decision-makers on the merits of low impact development in a way that breaks down barriers for adoption of these practices and directly addresses real concerns.
  • From Gray Funnels to Green Sponges
    A Podcast produced by EPA in 2008 with two EPA experts discussing on how to manage rainwater and snow melt where it falls; in ways that can make great places, preserve water quality and restore our nation's waterways.
  • Watershed Academy Webcasts (also available via iTunes Exit EPA Disclaimer)
    Series includes outstanding archived seminars about Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure.

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