Tempe launches green stormwater initiative to cool the city

Sep 2, 2023, 10:00 AM

The city of Tempe announced a new green stormwater infrastructure plan on Friday....

Tempe plans to cool the city by planting trees and vegetation while saving water through green stormwater infrastructure, or GSI for short. (City of Tempe Photo)

(City of Tempe Photo)

PHOENIX – The city of Tempe announced a new green stormwater infrastructure initiative on Friday. Residents can also help shape the sustainability plan by joining the Rain to Roots ambassador program, officials said.

The news comes after a powerful thunderstorm lashed over much of Maricopa County on Thursday night. Severe storms cast heavy rain over large swaths of southwest Arizona, the National Weather Service said.

Despite the moisture, Tempe city leaders haven’t forgotten the hot and dry summer. That’s why they plan to use the monsoon rain to help keep the city cool.

How can green stormwater infrastructure keep cities cool?

Traditional stormwater systems are designed to move water away from a site through pipes, gutters and tunnels.

However, green stormwater infrastructure – or GSI – collects, filters and absorbs stormwater.

Essentially, Tempe leaders plan to cool the city by planting trees and vegetation that will absorb monsoon rains and keep the city cool. They’ll do this through a new plan called Rain to Roots.

“Growing more trees and vegetation provides shade and additional cooling benefits,” according to the city’s Friday announcement.

This can create a more “comfortable environment” in the city’s parks, streets and neighborhoods.

Shawn Swisher, a member of Tempe’s Sustainability and Resilience Commission, broke down why the Rain to Roots program is important.

“As our city continues to experience the effects of climate change, increasing heat in the city, it’s going to be important that we not only have additional shade but that we have vegetative spaces near where we walk and where we live to lower the ambient temperature,” he said in a statement.

Another member of the commission, John Kane, said this is an affordable way to keep the city cool.

“The more we can do to create a resilient city to live in and easier to walk in with more shade, it’s a great way to approach things,” he said in a statement.

How can Tempe residents shape the Rain to Roots plan?

Residents can join the Rain to Roots ambassador program, which means they can provide feedback through the planning process. On top of that, they can also help to develop green stormwater pilot project.

Those who are interested should mark their calendars for Sept. 13. The ambassador kick-off meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. that day at the Pyle Adult Recreation Center. After that, people who want to impact the city’s sustainability plans can meet on the second Wednesday of each month through fall of 2024.

Tempe residents can join by submitting this interest form.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

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Tempe launches green stormwater initiative to cool the city