Skip to main content

Hybrid green infrastructure for reducing demands on urban water and energy systems: a New York City hypothetical case study

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.


Green infrastructure shows promise as a “best management practice” for controlling stormwater runoff, particularly in older cities with combined sewer systems. Green infrastructure systems have been used to both mitigate pollutant loading to adjacent waterways as well as to reduce burdens on municipal wastewater and stormwater collection and treatment systems during storm events. Although the electric and water/wastewater networks are closely linked, wastewater, water supply, and energy systems have been typically studied in isolation. Here, we present a hypothetical case study for applying a modular hybrid green infrastructure approach to manage stormwater in the Newtown Creek sewershed in New York City. We provide background information on current and projected stormwater flows to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) and evaluate how interception and storage rainwater in the Newtown Creek sewershed could offset inflows to the WWTP and how this offset of stormwater inflows might result in reduced electric grid burdens and cost savings for the city. Our assessment indicates that a 0.66 % conversion of impervious sewershed surface area to modular hybrid green infrastructure could reduce stormwater inflow volumes (i.e., for an annual median storm) to the Newtown Creek WWTP by 10 %. We estimate that this would result in a 14-MWh reduction in energy required for wastewater treatment per storm event. Collectively, our results suggest that implementation of modular hybrid green infrastructure can significantly reduce burdens on urban water and energy systems, thereby helping to mitigate water-energy nexus challenges associated with climate change and population growth.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. Ahern J (2007) Green infrastructure for cities: the spatial dimension. In: Novotny V, Brown P (eds) Cities of the future towards integrated sustainable water and landscape management. IWA Publishing, London, UK, pp. 267–283

    Google Scholar 

  2. Arnold CL Jr, Gibbons CJ (1996) Impervious surface coverage: the emergence of a key environmental indicator. J Am Plan Assoc 62(2):243–258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bi EG, Monette F, Gachon P, Gaspéri J, Perrodin Y (2015) Quantitative and qualitative assessment of the impact of climate change on a combined sewer overflow and its receiving water body. Environ Sci Pollution Res 1–17 22(15):11905–11921. doi:10.1007/s11356-015-4411-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bolques A (2013) Effectiveness of rain gardens and bioretention to mitigate contaminant runoff in urban and agricultural settings. Florida A&M University, Dissertation

    Google Scholar 

  5. Bricker SB, Clement CG, Pirhalla DE, Orlando SP, Farrow DRG (1999) National estuarine eutrophication assessment: effects of nutrient enrichment in the nation’s estuaries. NOAA, National Ocean Service, Special Projects Office and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Silver Spring, 71 pp

  6. Bricker SB, Longstaff B, Dennison W, Jones A, Boicourt K, Wicks C, Woerner J (2008) Effects of nutrient enrichment in the nation’s estuaries: a decade of change. Harmful Algae 8(1):21–32

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Campbell RJ 2012 Weather-related power outages and electric system resiliency. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.

  8. De Sousa MR, Montalto FA, Spatari S (2012) Using life cycle assessments to evaluate green and grey combined sewer overflow control strategies. J Ind Ecol 16:901–913

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dietz ME, Clausen JC (2005) A field evaluation of rain garden flow and pollutant treatment. Water Air Soil Pollut 167(1–4):123–138

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Dunn A (2010) Siting green infrastructure: legal and policy solutions to alleviate urban poverty and promote healthy communities. Boston College Environ Affairs Law Review 37(1):41–66

    Google Scholar 

  11. Con Edison, 2005. Retrieved from

  12. Ellis JB (2013) Sustainable surface water management and green infrastructure in UK urban catchment planning. Journ. of Env. Plann Manag 56(1):24–41

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Energy Information Administration (2015) New York Electricity Profile 2013. Retrieved from

  14. Environment Service Division (2007) Bioretention Manual. Prince George County, MD

    Google Scholar 

  15. EPA 2003 Protecting water quality from urban runoff, Washington, DC

  16. EPA 2007a National Water Quality Inventory: 2002 reporting cycle

  17. EPA 2007b Reducing stormwater costs through low impact development (LID) strategies and practices (Contract No. 68-C-02-108). Retrieved from

  18. EPA 2012 National Coastal Condition Report IV. Retrieved from

  19. EPA Benefits of Green Infrastructure 2015 Retrieved from

  20. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Online Metadata, 2015.

  21. EPA National Stormwater Calculator 2015.

  22. EPRI 1993 Water and wastewater industries: characteristics and DSM opportunities. EPRI TR-102015 Projects 2662–10:3046–03. Palo Alto, California, p 2–55

  23. Eraydin A and Tasan-Kok T 2012 Resilience thinking in urban planning (Vol. 106), p. 28. Springer Science & Business Media

  24. Foster J, Lowe A, Winkelman S (2011) The value of green infrastructure for urban climate adaptaion. Center for Clean Air and Policy Report, Washington, DC

  25. Gamerith V, Olsson J, Camhy D, Hochedlinger M 2012 Assessment of combined sewer overflows under climate change-urban drainage pilot study Linz. Proceedings of IWA World Congress on Water, Climate and Energy

  26. Gill SE, Handley JF, Ennos AR and Pauleit S 2007 Adapting cities for climate change: the role of the green infrastructure. Built Environment (1978-):115–133

  27. Harou JJ, Pulido-Velazquez M, Rosenberg DE, Medellín-Azuara J, Lund JR, Howitt RE (2009) Hydro-economic models: concepts, design, applications, and future prospects. J Hydrol 375(3):627–643

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hunt A, Watkiss P (2011) Climate change impacts and adaptation in cities: a review of the literature. Clim Chang 104(1):13–49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Keely M, Koburger A, Dolowitz DP, Medearis D, Nickel D, Shuster W (2013) Perspectives on the use of green infrastructure for stormwater management in Cleveland and Milwaukee. Environ Manag 51:1093–1108

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Tornes LH 2005 Effects of rain gardens on the quality of water in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota, 2002-2004. Mounds View, MN: U.S. Geological Survey

  31. New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 2007a. New York City’s Wastewater Treatment System. Retrieved from

  32. New York City Department of Environmental Protection, 2007b. City Wide Long term CSO Control Planning Project: Landside Modeling Report Vol. 6 Newtown Creek WPCP. Retrieved from

  33. New York City Department of Environmental Protection (2014) Green Infrastructure Annual Report. Retrieved from

  34. New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC2), 2013. Climate risk information 2013: observations, climate change projections, and maps. Retrieved from

  35. New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Modified CSO Order of Consent White Paper, 2011. Retrieved from

  36. New York Independent System Operator – Markets & Operations: Custom Reports. 2015 Retrieved on 11/5/2015 from

  37. NOAA National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center Precipitation Frequency Data Server -NOAA Atlas 14 point precipitation frequency estimates: NY. 2016 Retrieved on 1/2/2016 from

  38. NYC Open Data: Department of Environment Protection, 2015. Wastewater Treatment Plant Performance Data. Retrieved from

  39. Pataki DE, Carrerio MM, Cherrier J, Gruke NE, Jennings V, Pincetl S, Pouyat RV, Whitlow TH, Zipperer WC (2011) Coupling biogeochemical cycles in urban environments: ecosystem services, green solutions, and misconceptions. Front Ecol Environ 9(1):27–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Rosenzweig C, Major DC, Demong K, Stanton C, Horton R, Stults M (2007) Managing climate change risks in New York City’s water system: assessment and adaptation planning. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 12(8):1391–1409

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Rosenzweig C, Solecki WD, Cox J, Hodges S, Parshall L, Lynn B, Goldberg R, Gaffin S, Slosberg RB, Savio P, Watson M, Dunstan F (2009) Mitigating New York City’s heat island: integrating stakeholder perspectives and scientific evaluation. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 90:1297–1312

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Roy-Poirier A, Champagne P, Filion Y (2010) Review of bioretention system research and design: past, present, and future. J Environ Eng 136(9):878–889

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Scott C, Pasqualetti MJ (2010) Energy and water resources scarcity: critical infrastructure for growth and economic development in Arizona and Sonora. Nat Resour J 50:645–682

    Google Scholar 

  44. Scott CM, Shulman MD (1979) An areal and temporal analysis of precipitation in the Northeastern United States. J Appl Meteorol 18(5):627–633

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Scott GI, Holland AF, Sandifer PA (2006) Managing coastal urbanization and development in the 21st Century:  the need for a new paradigm. In: Kleppell GS, DeVoe MR, Rawson MV (eds) Changing land use patterns in the coastal zone: managing environmental quality in reapidly developing regions. Van Norstam Press, New York, NY, USA, pp 285–299

  46. Semadeni-Davies A, Hernebring C, Svensson G, Gustafsson LG (2008) The impacts of climate change and urbanization on drainage in Helsingborg, Sweden: suburban stormwater. J Hydrol 350:114–125

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Spatari S, Yu Z, Montalto FA (2011) Life cycle implications of urban green infrastructure. Environ Pollut 159(8):2174–2179

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Ting TP 2012 Urban green spaces and livability in southeast Asia. Urbanization in Southeast Asia: Issues & Impacts, 262

  49. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2014. World urbanization prospects: the 2014 revision, Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/352).

  50. United nations, department of economic and social affairs, population division, 2015. World population prospects: the 2015 revision, key findings and advanceTables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241

  51. Wang R, Eckelman MJ, Zimmerman JB (2013) Consequential environmental and economic life cycle assessment of green and gray stormwater infrastructures for combined sewer systems. Environ Sci Technol 47(19):11189–11198

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Wanik DW, Anagnostou EN, Hartman BM, Frediani MEB, Astitha M (2015) Storm outage modeling for an electric distribution network in Northeastern USA. Nat Hazards 79(2):1359–1384

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Ward DM (2013) The effect of weather on grid systems and the reliability of electricity supply. Clim Chang 121(1):103–113

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Ward FA, Pulido-Velazquez M (2008) Water conservation in irrigation can increase water use. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105(47):18215–18220

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. World Economic Forum (2011) water security: the water-food-energy-climate nexus, The World Economic Forum Initiative. Island Press, Washington DC

    Book  Google Scholar 

  56. Zanella A, Camanho AS, Dias TG (2015) The assessment of cities’ livability integrating human wellbeing and environmental impact. Ann Oper Res 226(1):695–726

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported in part by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Educational Partnership Program grants (NA06OAR4810164 and NA11SEC4810004) and CUNY Collaborative Research Grant Project (2133).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Cherrier.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cherrier, J., Klein, Y., Link, H. et al. Hybrid green infrastructure for reducing demands on urban water and energy systems: a New York City hypothetical case study. J Environ Stud Sci 6, 77–89 (2016).

Download citation


  • Green infrastructure
  • Water-energy nexus
  • Stormwater runoff
  • Sewershed
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Electricity peak demand
  • Hybrid