Overcoming Barriers to Municipal Green Infrastructure Implementation

Permeable pavement at City Hall in Hobart, IN
Green Infrastructure in Hillman Park, Hobart, IN
Native plantings in sidewalk medians in Grand Rapids, MI
Water filtration buffers in Hillman Park in Hobart, IN

Delta Institute examined the barriers preventing Green Infrastructure from being installed across the Great Lakes at the scale needed to address climate change. Delta’s research will inform the development of potential support services that will help municipalities overcome these barriers and improve local water quality, reduce flooding, and improve quality-of-life for their residents.

These user research, municipal engagement, and Great Lakes Basin-wide analysis efforts directly led to an implementation scope underway between 2023-2027, generously underwritten by the Great Lakes Protection Fund. Delta will share more updates, plans, and accomplishments in the months ahead as we move onward.


This scope of work has successfully concluded, and resulted in a innovative municipal green infrastructure financing pilot that is currently underway. We are appreciative to the Fund for both the design phase, and our exciting implementation underway from now through 2025.


Why Our Work is Needed

Small and mid-sized municipalities throughout the Great Lakes are experiencing chronic flood events that are often made worse by more frequent climate-impacted precipitation and inadequate stormwater infrastructure. In many communities, municipal governments and sewer districts lack the capacity to make necessary upgrades–or to explore alternative approaches.

Nature-based climate solutions, like bioswales and “stormwater” trees, can help reduce runoff, mitigate flooding impacts, improve water quality, and provide other important benefits. Implementing green infrastructure is often a challenge for many communities, however, for a variety of reasons.

Delta Institute’s experience has illustrated the key need for robust research that uncovers the financial, political, environmental, and other barriers to widespread municipal green infrastructure implementation so that effective solutions can be developed.


Brief Overview of What We’re Doing

Delta Institute (Delta), with funding from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, partnered with municipalities throughout our region to identify the barriers to implementing green infrastructure in Great Lakes communities. We engaged specifically with mid-sized municipalities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin that are disproportionately impacted by flooding and have above-average Social Vulnerability Index scores (per US CDC/ASTDR assessment).

Specifically, our project team engaged a cohort of approximately 10+ municipalities in a focused user research process to understand existing municipal approaches to green infrastructure implementation while uncovering the barriers that impede expanding and implementing green infrastructure. We then identified possible solutions to help municipalities overcome these barriers so that more communities are able to mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and create green spaces for residents through green infrastructure.


Delta Institute is deeply appreciative to the Great Lakes Protection Fund (GLPF) for selecting us to manage this important project, both during its design phase described on this webpage and on our ongoing implementation scope. Delta Institute would also like to thank our many project partners for contributing their thoughts and acumen to our work.


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