Grey to Green Initiative in Portland

The Original Grey to Green Initiative

With all the stuff in the news about healthy water and the problems when that water gets contaminated, I did some thinking about the Grey to Green Initiative from back a few years ago. For Portlanders, the Grey to Green Initiative is old news. We live in a green city, and this 5 year plan did great things all over this town. Portland celebrated some huge wins with this project that helped us manage our stormwater. Overall, we protected our natural habitats better, created more natural management systems, and improved and beautified neighborhoods as well as the quality of our rivers and streams. But this initiative only lasted from 2008-2014.


According to the Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) report,the Initiative was a huge success:

  • During these 5 years, the city planted 32,300. As these trees mature, they’ll filter 18 million gallons of stormwater.
  • The city built 867 green street planters, which help manage and filter runoff, protect our storm drains., and allow much of the rainwater to soak back into the soil.
  • We added 11 acres of rooftop greenery to the city, which help manage runoff, improve air quality, and save energy, and provide habitat for pollinating insects and birds.
  • With the help of volunteers, the Youth Conservation Crew, and Portland Parks and Recreation employees, we treated over 7.400 acres for invasive plants.
  • We replaced 17 culverts in Crystal Springs Creek and surrounding areas that were reducing water quality and preventing fish from passing through.
  • We improved the Westmoreland Park pond as well, so runoff from area streets was handled better.


Redirecting Rainwater to natural filters before it hits the storm drains

We’re keeping our streams and rivers cleaner than we have in the past.

We’re using our natural resources and building natural solutions to filter and clean our water as soon as the rain falls. And even though the Grey to Green Initiative has ended, Portlanders learned the importance of managing our stormwater efficiently. But before we review those stormwater management tips, let’s talk about why it’s important.

Here’s some stormwater facts:

  • Stormwater is the 4th largest contributor to pollution in our rivers and the 3rd largest for lakes.
  • Stormwater is the largestsource of pollution for ocean shorelines.
  • Most cities manage stormwater runoff through storm drains and underground pipes.
  • All this stormwater from storm drains is treated as waste water.
  • GREEN stormwater best management practices (BMPs) treat water as a resource to be preserved and maintained.
  • BMPs filters water at the source, and mimics natural processes.
  • BMPs focus on three main things:
    • Retention
    • Detention
    • Infiltration


Grey to green initiative is still helping portlanders

The BES recommends these simple things to help manage stormwater:

  • Think about all the water that leaves your property, whether from rain, snow, or your hose and enters the storm drains and sewers. Arrange ways for this water to stay on your property, or at least be filtered before it enters storm drains or the sewer system.
  • Remove any unnecessary things from your property that could contaminate water as it leaves your property. (We’re talking about pet waste, fertilizers, trash, car wash chemicals, vehicle maintenance loose soil, etc.)
  • Consider implementing some grading into your landscaping to change the way water leaves your property. The more it filters through your grass and vegetation, the cleaner it will be!
  • If you’re working on a construction project, make sure your contractors follow best practices when It comes to disposing of materials and chemicals. If they’re left on your property, in the next rain they could leech into the stormwater.
  • The EPA has a thorough list of BMPs for stormwater management here.

However you decide to contribute, be intentional. We all benefit from a cleaner water supply, and the next generation will thank us!