Green infrastructure at the parcel scale provides critical ecosystem goods and services when these services (such as flood mitigation) must be provided locally. Here we report on an approach that encourages suburban landowners to mitigate impervious surfaces on their properties through a voluntary auction mechanism. We used an economic incentive to place rain gardens and rain barrels onto parcels in a 1.8-km2 watershed near Cincinnati, Ohio. A comprehensive hydrologic, water-quality, and ecological monitoring campaign documented environmental conditions before and after treatment. In 2007 and 2008, we engaged private landowners through a reverse auction to encourage placement of one rain garden and up to four rain barrels on their property. The program led to the installation of 83 rain gardens and 176 rain barrels onto more than 20% of the properties, and preliminary analyses indicate that the overall discharge regime was altered by the treatments. The length of the study (six years) may have precluded observation of treatment effects on water quality and aquatic biological communities, as we would expect these conditions to respond more slowly to management changes. These distributed storm-water installations contributed to ecosystem services such as flood protection, water supply, and water infiltration; provided benefits to the local residents; and reduced the need for larger, expensive, centralized retrofits (such as deep tunnel storage).
Environmental Practice 14:57–67 (2012)