Assessing Green Infrastructure Needs in Hampton Roads, Virginia and Identifying the Role of Virginia Cooperative Extension
The Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia is largely defined by its abundant water resources. These water resources are also a source of unique issues for the region. Specifically, water quality challenges related to the Chesapeake Bay and recurrent flooding are the major concerns. Green infrastructure (GI) has emerged in recent years as an alternative to traditional stormwater conveyance and detention focused systems. GI practices focus on integrating infiltration, evapotranspiration, and other components of the water cycle into more conventional stormwater management systems. These systems provide several positive benefits, including local water quality and quantity control, community revitalization, and various public health benefits. In addition, GI implementation has seen strong levels of support from the Cooperative Extension System, with Extension faculty and staff around the U.S. supporting local municipalities through GI research, promotion, and program development. Despite widespread interest, GI has been slow to be adopted due to various barriers to its implementation. This study sought to identify the major barriers to the implementation of GI practices in Hampton Roads by conducting a needs assessment. Municipal stormwater staff were invited to participate in an online survey aimed at identifying the most significant barriers in the region. At the same time, local staff with Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) were interviewed to explore their potential to become involved in promoting GI adoption in Hampton Roads. Survey respondents and interview participants found common ground in identifying costs, funding, and maintenance issues as the most significant barriers to GI implementation in Hampton Roads. In addition, VCE staff were found to be well suited to support widespread GI adoption in the region, having familiarity with the GI concept and access to unique resources in the form of knowledgeable Master Gardener volunteers and connections to Virginia Tech. Recommendations for VCE involvement in promoting GI in Hampton Roads include conducting cost studies, developing and hosting maintenance training programs, and taking advantage of partnerships to identify and obtain funding from diverse sources. By focusing on these widely acknowledged challenges at the regional scale, VCE can support GI implementation throughout all of Hampton Roads.