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Natural Systems

Opportunity Area #12: Employ Natural System Centric Land Use Development Practices

Opportunity Area #12 – Employ Natural System Centric Land Use Development Practices

Nature-based solutions and integration of green infrastructure with new development offer alternatives for conventional infrastructure that capitalize upon natural systems to manage increased runoff and temperatures resulting from built environments. Section 502 of the Clean Water Act defines green infrastructure as “…the range of measures that use plant or soil systems, permeable pavement or other permeable surfaces or substrates, stormwater harvest and reuse, or landscaping to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flows to sewer systems or to surface waters.”

The US EPA describes green infrastructure as a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits. While single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure—conventional piped drainage and water treatment systems—is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits.

With the exacerbation of global warming and increasing temperatures around the world, cities are generating more heat islands than normal as the earth is absorbing the sun’s rays instead of releasing them. Trees around the area refresh the air and cool the weather, reducing the temperature by evapotranspiration and providing shade for the neighborhoods. Temperatures and trees have a strong correlation and each of them affect the other significantly. In Cincinnati, Mount Airy-Westwood was ranked the highest neighborhood in Cincinnati which has a tree canopy surface that covers about 81% of the neighborhood. As a result, Mount Airy had the lowest temperature degree among all the other neighborhoods in Cincinnati. The lower and weaker the tree canopy layer, the higher the temperature will be as a result.

OKI region map with heat islands

OKI Region Heat Map

Policy Recommendations

12.A Local comprehensive plans and local land development regulations should integrate natural systems protection and enhancement with all future land use recommendations and requirements.

12.B Local jurisdictions should develop and adopt updated zoning and subdivision regulations that support implementation of its local comprehensive plan goals, objectives and policies, such as conservation design practices for new developments.

12.C OKI will identify and share models, data sources, GIS data and other analytical tools that help to indicate the economic and environmental value of natural systems and provide technical assistance to encourage their use.

12.D Integrate natural spaces, greenway connectivity, and canopy cover into neighborhoods to mitigate increasing temperatures.

12.E OKI will continue to work with and support efforts by local, state and national partners to update standards used for stormwater volume calculations as data trends change, including NOAA Atlas 14 and the US EPA Stormwater Calculator.

12.F Local governments should incorporate the identification of climate change risks and vulnerabilities into the local comprehensive planning process.