This May, Cook County’s infrastructure was pummeled with relentless rain, causing severe flooding, backups, inundated streets and sewer overflows. Thanks to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) recently updated Watershed Management Ordinance, and to battle flooding’s harmful effects on both nature and buildings, The Nature Conservancy in Illinois (TNC) and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) unveiled a new program, coined StormStore, which aims to expand the use of natural flooding solutions, like rain gardens, green roofs and bioswales.
New developments in Cook County, such as apartment buildings or retail spaces, are required by ordinance to manage stormwater runoff on their sites. However, these onsite control options are often problematic or come with a large price tag. StormStore is a credit trading system, meaning site developers with limited stormwater options can buy credits from landowners, such as community centers, churches, businesses or schools, that have the ability and space to support more stormwater via their natural infrastructure.
The local community sites holding extra stormwater can sell this capacity to developers, both financially benefitting from their existing stormwater management and further supporting the local environment. As such, StormStore aims to stimulate economic growth in watershed communities while giving developers new flexibility in meeting stormwater obligations and increasing green infrastructure projects to store water.
“This program benefits both parties,” said Jen Jenkins, Natural Infrastructure Project Manager with TNC. “Developers can continue new site plans without adding pricey control systems, and local landowners can continue creating green infrastructure to reduce flooding in their neighborhoods and get reimbursed for their expenses.”
Currently, StormStore is in a pilot phase in two areas heavily impacted by stormwater challenges and with sufficient supply and demand to support this market-based program: the Lower Des Plaines and Little Calumet watershed areas.
“StormStore is a great way for developers to get involved with the local community,” said Ryan Wilson, Manager of Water Resources with MPC. “We’re hoping as many eligible projects in these pilot areas as possible participate and purchase credits, and in turn aid these neighborhoods in mitigating floods and supporting the local environment.”
To learn about how to get involved in the program, visit MPC’s StormStore website.