Did you see the recent investigative article in the New York Times regarding groundwater depletion in the U.S.?
Aquifers supply 90% of our nation’s water supply, but they are being over-pumped to levels that could cause irreversible damage to the U.S. economy and society as a whole - emanating in lower crop yields, poor drinking water quality, and shunted land development (housing).
A quiet contributor to this problem that doesn’t get enough attention is the amount of impervious surface area that covers our cities. With 40-60% of the urban landscape covered by impervious surfaces (streets, sidewalks, parking lots, etc.), rainwater that should be naturally re-entering the ground never gets the chance. Instead it becomes runoff that contributes to urban flooding.
These very issues are at the forefront of AquiPor’s mission to develop the permeable concrete technologies and engineering systems to help manage stormwater and recharge groundwater right within the built environment.
With a commitment by cities to introduce more permeable surfaces and upgrade existing stormwater systems with green infrastructure, we can start to reverse these trends.
Can your community benefit from AquiPor? We’d love to hear from you.
Find out more about AquiPor and learn how you can invest in this technology from the ground up!
The U.S. Geological Survey recently put together a model that estimated the amount of impervious parking lot coverage in the United States.
According to the report, 5.5% of all developed land in the lower 48 is covered by parking lots. That’s close to 26 billion square feet of surface area that is impervious to stormwater. All of this impervious surface area contributes to stormwater pollution and localized flooding when it rains.
With U.S. cities responsible for discharging up to 10 Trillion gallons of polluted water into clean waterways and flood damage costing the country $9 billion annually, parking lots represent an obvious opportunity for implementing green stormwater infrastructure.
By my very rough math, parking lots are responsible for tens of billions of gallons of stormwater runoff annually. That represents runoff that not only needs to be treated, but it’s also water that never makes its way back into the ground to recharge groundwater. In drought-plagued regions like the southwest and California, groundwater recharge is one of the most critical water management strategies that can be implemented.
One easy solution to this problem is to make parking lots surface-permeable. The right permeable pavement technology, when it’s accompanied with good engineering, is a no-brainer approach to stormwater management and groundwater recharge.
Besides the environmental benefits, the economic benefits of permeable pavements are understated. Getting stormwater back into the ground naturally is extremely valuable. Simply put, every gallon of freshwater that doesn’t need to be treated at a downstream wastewater treatment plant or imported from hundreds of miles away, represents real savings for a community.
In a previous post we addressed why we don’t yet see permeable pavement everywhere. At AquiPor, we’re working to change that with a technology that makes permeable paving the norm and not the exception in cities. The parking lot seems like a good place to start this trend.
At AquiPor, we believe that climate change is mostly a water issue. One of the most significant impacts of a warming atmosphere is the effect that it’s having on precipitation. The amount of water that a region gets and when it gets that water has become more and more unpredictable. This can mean too much water (flooding) in some regions, and not nearly enough (drought) in others. And even in drought-stricken areas, when precipitation does come, it can be volatile and sudden.
Extreme rain events, outdated infrastructure, and the vast amount of impervious surfaces in our cities all factor into the alarming levels of runoff pollution and urban flooding that communities now have to contend with.
At AquiPor, we’ve developed our permeable concrete technology to take the place of traditional paved surfaces to help manage stormwater, reduce pollution from runoff, and help mitigate flooding in cities and towns alike. Here are five ways that AquiPor can help make our communities more resilient to climate change:
2. AquiPor makes it easier for cities to deal with water pollution. It’s estimated that over 10 TRILLION GALLONS of untreated stormwater, wastewater, and sewage gets discharged into clean water bodies every year. This is due to the vast amount of impervious concrete and asphalt surfaces in cities, the amount of runoff these surfaces generate, and the outdated nature of gray infrastructure systems that are ill-equipped to deal with large volumes of runoff.
When it rains, stormwater that should naturally soak into soils and recharge groundwater instead becomes polluted runoff as soon as it hits the pavement. Much of this polluted runoff ends up in nearby water bodies.
By replacing traditional pavements with AquiPor’s permeable concrete, stormwater can now flow through the concrete and back into the ground. Due to the tiny pore size of AquiPor concrete, it can even filter out the majority of dirt, debris, and pollutants found in stormwater.
3. AquiPor’s product has an inherently low CO2 footprint. Cement and concrete production is responsible for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions each year. In addition to AquiPor’s ability to manage stormwater and mitigate flooding, our concrete is produced in an entirely new way and does not use normal cement in the process. Instead, we use a combination of industrial minerals and without the need for cement plants, our process has an extremely low CO2 footprint when compared to normal concrete.
4. AquiPor uses recycled materials. Instead of relying on pollutive cements and additives, our concrete uses a proprietary mix of industrial minerals and “leftovers” from other industries.
5. AquiPor’s concrete is precast, making it easy and efficient to install. Precast concrete has a myriad of advantages, including uniformity, saving time, and improved quality control. Precast concrete is manufactured offsite in a covered environment which means it isn’t weather dependent, and it enables just in time delivery for jobs. It also allows for a cleaner, safer construction site.
These are just a few of the ways that AquiPor’s permeable concrete technology can make communities more resilient in the face of climate change. Where can this technology make the biggest impact in your community?
Fly-ash is a hazardous environmental byproduct from coal-fired electric power generation and industrial boilers.
For decades, utilities have disposed of coal ash dangerously, dumping it in unlined ponds and landfills where the toxins leak into groundwater. Some estimates state there are over 3 billion tons of legacy and “fresh” fly-ash waste in the U.S. alone. Many landfills and collection ponds are near large cities.
According to industry’s own data, 94% of the coal ash ponds in the United States are unlined. Unlined ponds are contaminating groundwater with toxins above levels that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe for drinking water.
Legal and technical experts from Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and partner organizations located and analyzed the data disclosures from utilities that report groundwater monitoring data and found that 91% of these plants are contaminating groundwater with toxic substances at levels exceeding federal safe standards.
AquiPor’s permeable concrete can be used to sequester various harmful industrial waste by combining these materials with our catalytic binder. One such waste material we have been successfully testing in our mix designs is fly ash.
There are environmental and economic advantages to recycling this waste back into our concrete, but in addition to that, it creates some emerging properties that are very compelling for our permeable technology.
How about that...taking care of industrial waste that is contaminating groundwater and putting it into new, useful permeable material that can help improve groundwater and freshwater in our cities?!
It’s nice to see that the concept of “sponge cities” is starting to go mainstream. We’ve long believed that one of the most practical ways to improve urban water quality, facilitate sustainable water infrastructure, and generally make our cities more resilient in the face of climate change is to simply add more permeable surface area in our cities.
Wet regions and drought-stricken areas alike can benefit from a “spongier” approach to physical infrastructure. As the atmosphere warms, it holds more water, which can then result in flashier and quicker rain events. The challenge with these sudden rain bursts is that outdated municipal water infrastructure is easily overwhelmed. This leads to extreme flooding and polluted waterways.
Undoubtedly, there have been unintended consequences to urbanization. The amount of impervious surfaces - in the form of streets, sidewalks, alleyways, and rooftops - is one of them. Land that once absorbed rainfall, returning it to the natural water cycle, is now caked over with pavement. Rainfall now hits those surfaces and runs off to gutters and storm drains, picking up every pollutant and toxin in its path. This polluted runoff is expensive to treat at wastewater plants and every drop of water that doesn’t naturally re-enter the water cycle creates another unintended consequence that is even more dire - aquifer depletion.
At AquiPor, we’ve always thought of stormwater as an asset rather than a liability of waste. Large, quick rainfall can become very valuable for cities if they design their physical infrastructure in ways that can utilize it. There’s no better way to do that than getting it back into the ground naturally through porous concrete and other green infrastructure approaches.
If you’ve been following AquiPor for even a short amount of time, you know that we are developing a new type of permeable concrete that would help alleviate stormwater pollution in cities, and we’re really excited about that. It’s not every day you invent a technology that could not only make life better for people in cities but can also directly help make our communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
In short, our permeable concrete can help ease the pressure on already overused sewage systems and reduce pollution in the environment by providing a better way to handle rainwater and snow runoff. Instead of allowing polluted stormwater to run off of paved surfaces and into storm drains, our permeable pavers will allow this water to flow down through the material and into subsurface layers before naturally recharging groundwater.
There are many applications for our permeable concrete, and we thought it would be fun to share some ideas we have that you might not have thought of. Here are 5 possible applications of our permeable concrete:
1. Swimming pools: Not the actual swimming pools, that would be kind of silly to have porous material in your pool, but imagine that you have permeable pavers surrounding the pool. Excess water gets drained from around the pool, making it a safer place for your kids. Now, instead of yelling at your kids to “stop running around the pool!”, you can yell “kids, run and get me another beer!”. Honestly though, having less water around makes it less slick and therefore a lot safer for those you love. Just imagine!
2. Parking lots: You may not even notice it, but those random grassy swales in retail and commercial parking lots are actually there to deal with stormwater runoff. Instead of bulky, space consuming swales or stormwater ponds, AquiPor permeable pavers can take their place to manage stormwater without taking up all that usable space! Btw, did you know that 5.5% of all developed land in the U.S. is made up of impervious parking lots?! This is a problem we know can be reversed!
3. Sidewalk Panels: There are millions of miles of sidewalks throughout the U.S. and almost all of them are impermeable. What better way to manage stormwater from the street than to direct it to permeable sidewalks and manage it right there?! Now of course, these systems need to be designed and engineered to be structurally sound and to prevent road settling but we’ve considered that too. Our “steady-state”, porous detention tanks go underneath our permeable sidewalk panels and regulate how fast stormwater goes back into the ground based on the natural hydrology of those soils. As part of a fully engineered design, we can literally turn neighborhoods into stormwater infiltration corridors. Neat huh?
4. Bike lanes and walking paths: As more and more cities embrace micro-mobility and pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, why not turn the designated bike lanes and pathways in cities into permeable surfaces? Any opportunity to transform impervious pavement into permeable surfaces not only helps with stormwater and flooding issues, but it’s also known that permeable paving can help eliminate urban heat island. Pedestrian friendly + stormwater management + elimination of urban heat island = WIN WIN WIN!
5. Driveways and residential patios: Using permeable pavers in a residential driveway and / or patio can help alleviate all manner of groundwater and stormwater runoff issues, while also safeguarding local water quality by protecting against the infiltration of pollutants. In cold climates, electric or hydronic heating systems in conjunction with a well-designed permeable paver system can not only eliminate snow and ice, but it can get that precipitation back into the ground naturally. Of course, these system designs cost more but it goes to show you what’s possible with permeable concrete pavers!
At AquiPor, we’re hard at work developing our technology to meet the standards necessary for each and every one of these applications. What else haven’t we thought of?! Get in touch with us and let us know!
With climate change ever-present, it’s time to consider the value of stormwater and treat it like the freshwater asset that it is.
Even in the drought-ridden American West, climate change doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount of water an area receives, but it definitely has changed how, when, and in what form it arrives. This means more volatile precipitation, less snowpack, more flooding, higher temperatures, and shorter wet seasons.
The impact that this is having on our watersheds is alarming. All of the water that we consume comes from a watershed. Watersheds consist of two distinct parts: surface waters - which are streams, rivers, and lakes - and groundwater, which is stored in underground aquifers.
Most areas, at least in the West, rely heavily on groundwater. The need to replenish these underground stores is critical, and every drop of stormwater that becomes runoff instead of seeping back into the ground is a missed opportunity.
In most U.S. cities, where upward of 40% of the urban landscape is paved over with impervious surfaces, huge volumes of runoff are generated each time it rains. There is an enormous opportunity for cities to adapt to the new normal of climate change by turning impervious surfaces permeable. In this era of flashier rain events, where wet weather events can be extreme, volatile, and quick, cities can become more resilient by prioritizing the use of permeable paving and green infrastructure. Not only can it help mitigate urban flooding and runoff pollution, but it can readily get much needed precipitation back into the ground.
The majority of urban surface area in the U.S. consists of concrete, asphalt, and other pavements that are impermeable to water. There are unintended consequences for the millions of miles of collective streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and rooftops that cover our cities.
It’s estimated that over 10 TRILLION GALLONS of untreated stormwater, wastewater, and sewage gets discharged into clean water bodies every year. Traditional concrete and asphalt surfaces have a major role to play in this.
When it rains, stormwater that should naturally soak into soils and recharge groundwater instead becomes polluted runoff as soon as it hits the pavement. In some regions that are experiencing larger and more sudden flashes of rain, the issue has evolved from one of stormwater pollution into one of urban flooding.
Interlocking “gap” concrete pavers are prone to collecting debris within the gaps.
On the other end of the spectrum - in drought-ridden regions - when it actually does rain, every drop of rain that turns into runoff is wasted. Permeable pavement’s role in solving these issues is now undeniable.
So what exactly is Permeable Pavement?
In the most basic sense, permeable pavement is a type of paved surface that is designed to allow rainwater to pass through it and back into the ground naturally. It seems like a no-brainer, but as great as the concept might be, the market for permeable pavement remains nascent due to a technology lag. Solutions such as porous asphalt, pervious concrete, and interlocking “gapped” pavers have been around for decades with very little innovation.
More specifically, the lack of durability and a propensity to quickly clog up from debris has limited the real world potential for these products. Expensive maintenance and replacement costs haven’t helped, and the irony of portland cement-based permeable pavements should not be lost on us. The cement industry is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions. Elevated greenhouse gasses are amplifying climate change which is delivering more extreme weather. In other words, the very technologies meant to help cities adapt to climate change are in part contributing to it.
This pervious concrete installation became impervious from clogging and moss growth.
Leaping Technology Forward
Despite all of this, permeable pavement should still be a key component of stormwater infrastructure moving forward, just not as it has existed in the past. Fortunately, new technologies are being developed that are resistant to clogging, as durable as normal concrete, and made with new types of “cement” that are environmentally friendly. At AquiPor, we’ve been fortunate to have a front row seat as the technology has evolved.
In conjunction with reliable engineering, good hydrologic analysis, and an accounting of the capacity of the underlying soils to accept stormwater at a given rate, this type of material can be implemented into a permeable system design for full infiltration, partial infiltration, or even full attenuation where stormwater reuse is desired.
Hard surfaces are very useful in our cities. Unfortunately, as they exist today they also contributed significantly to urban water issues. But with the right permeable technology and good engineering, they can be transformed to help improve the sustainability and quality of our natural water systems.