Exploring Green Infrastructure

Addressing Polluted Runoff

The Watershed Institute offers a strategic hub to learn about the benefits, tools, and examples of green infrastructure — including rain gardens, vegetative filter strips, green roofs, and other features — in our central New Jersey communities. We invite you to learn about the Watershed’s advocacy efforts and explore some projects that our scientists and other professionals have designed and implemented in local towns and cities. Our Watershed scientists have created plans in 16 towns to assess impervious cover with funding from state and federal governments.

Flooding has become an urgent problem, with many communities experiencing significant problems as more intense and frequent rainstorms carry polluted stormwater into waterways. More residents, towns, cities, schools, and businesses are adding green infrastructure to help them manage polluted stormwater runoff. Please explore the tabs and links below!

Green Infrastructure Map

Join us on a virtual tour of rain gardens, swales, and other green infrastructure for residents, towns and businesses alike!

Learn More & See Examples

What Is The Problem?

Where is the source of your flooded basement, rain-soaked yard, and water-logged driveway? As water runs downhill and creates issues on your property (or your neighbors), there are relatively easy ways to resolve the issue with landscape features that mimic nature by absorbing and cleansing the excess stormwater.

These features, commonly known as green infrastructure, include rain gardens, cisterns, downspout planters and other landscape options. Evaluating your property is the first step on your journey.


Simple Steps

Homeowners and residents seeking solutions to communities awash with water may choose to DIY some simple measures to fix the problem.

These include planting trees to absorb water during storms or adding a meadow with native grasses and plants to uptake any excess rainfall. Adding a rain barrel or downspout planter are some other ways to capture stormwater. The Watershed periodically offers workshops and webinars on these and other options.

Learn more River-Friendly actions 

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens, also known as bioretention systems, are stormwater management facilities used to address the stormwater quality and quantity impacts of land development. The system consists of a soil bed planted with vegetation; it can be underdrained, or runoff can infiltrate into the subsoil. Pollutants are treated through the processes of settling and uptake and filtration by the vegetation. Pollutants are also treated within the soil bed through infiltration. The total suspended solids (TSS) removal rate is 80 – 90%; this rate will depend on the depth of the soil bed and the type of vegetation selected.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP

Green Roof

A green roof, also known as a vegetated roof, is a roof that has been covered with a growing medium and vegetation. Green roofs are effective for reducing the amount of stormwater runoff leaving a site. A green roof consists of vegetation planted in growing media on top of a drainage layer that intercepts stormwater and reduces the total volume of runoff through evapotranspiration.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP

Grassy Swale

A grass swale is a stable, parabolic or trapezoidal channel that is lined with turf; it is used to improve water quality and convey stormwater runoff. Grass swales do not rely on the permeability of the underlying soil for pollutant removal; instead, pollutants are removed by settling and filtration through the grass. The maximum total suspended solids (TSS) removal rate is 50%.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP

Vegetated Filter Strips

A vegetative filter strip is a stable, evenly graded area that removes pollutants from stormwater runoff through filtration and biological uptake. In order to provide pollutant treatment, runoff must enter and move through the filter strip as sheet flow; therefore, vegetative filter strips must have shallow enough slopes to maintain sheet flow. When designed in accordance with this chapter, the total suspended solid (TSS) removal rate is 60 – 80%, depending on the type of vegetation.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP

Cisterns & Rain Barrels

Cisterns are stormwater facilities that temporarily store stormwater runoff from rooftops, which is subsequently reused for non-potable uses, such as toilet flushing and vehicle washing. Cisterns can either be indoors or outdoors and above, at, or below grade. The reuse of the stormwater reduces the volume of stormwater runoff that makes it to downstream facilities. Take note that cisterns are not a viable stormwater management choice for sites with little or no demand for reuse.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP


Dry Well

Dry wells are subsurface stormwater facilities that are used to collect and temporarily store runoff from clean rooftops; runoff is discharged through infiltration into the subsoil. Dry wells may be used to comply with the groundwater recharge design and performance standard of the Stormwater Management rules. Additionally, they may also be used to reduce the volume of clean, roof runoff.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP

Porous Pavement

A pervious paving system is a stormwater management facility used to address the impacts of land development. The system consists of a durable, permeable surface course, which allows stormwater to move through it; this surface course is placed over a transition layer and a storage bed of open-graded, meaning devoid of fine particles, aggregate. There are two types: underdrained systems and systems designed to infiltrate into the subsoil. When designed in accordance with this chapter, the total suspended solid (TSS) removal rate is 80%.

Learn More & Maintenance Tips

Best Practices from NJDEP

Floating Wetlands

Floating wetlands absorb excess nutrients with hardy plants on soil media/marine foam that is deployed into a waterway. Once the plants are established and mature, this innovative approach mimics nature and filters out any pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful elements without using chemicals.

Learn More Here


Green Infrastructure Tour Fall 2019 Installation


This project has features that mimic nature and capture, filter and absorb polluted stormwater runoff. The project helps alleviate flooding and cleanses the runoff before reaching local waterways.

Hopewell Borough Tour

Green Infrastructure Tour Summer 2020 Installation


Two large vegetative filters were installed to capture rainfall flowing off the parking lot at Rocky Brook Park.

Hightstown Tour

Assessing Hard Surfaces

With funding support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Watershed is working in 16 central New Jersey towns to identify areas with large expanses of asphalt or concrete that can be reduced and/or retrofitted with strategies to capture polluted runoff, filter it with vegetation or other means, and allow it to percolate into the ground. Supplementing our towns’ existing infrastructure with a new kind of “green infrastructure” can help reduce pollution and flooding and improve the condition of our groundwater aquifers.

Learn More Here

Webinar Model Ordinance language

Model Ordinance

The Watershed Institute has developed a model ordinance to guide local towns and cities on how to craft their own measures. Our ordinance goes beyond the state’s baseline standards with additional enhancements.

Model Ordinance Language

Watch Webinar Here


The Watershed Institute has been working for years with local governments to help with strategies and ideas for controlling polluted stormwater runoff. Along with testifying in state government, our staff works with local towns and cities in crafting ordinances to shape development and growth, as well as advising them about stormwater utilities.

The Watershed Institute has developed a model ordinance to help municipalities combat the perils of polluted stormwater runoff and comply with new requirements from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

Watershed staff also have teamed up with concerned local citizens to help them become more engaged in their towns and advocate for stronger stormwater protections.

Explore and Advocate With Us!

Community Watershed Advocate Program

The Community Watershed Advocate Program (CWAP) at The Watershed Institute seeks to build a corps of volunteers to assist the Watershed’s advocacy team.

The inaugural group of 65 volunteers was trained to help educate the public and local governments about green infrastructure, which imitates natural ways of absorbing and controlling excess stormwater, by speaking up at local meetings as well as sharing information with their families and communities.

The next training that starts in March will explore protections for urban watersheds.

For information on joining the next training, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Eve Niedergang at [email protected].


Green Infrastructure In Our Region Fill Out Our Form

Submit Your Green Infrastructure Project

We want to recognize green infrastructure features in New Jersey, including projects at local government, homes, businesses, churches, schools, and elsewhere. Green infrastructure projects regardless of size — from a rain barrel to a meadow —  help keep our water healthier and cleaner.

Please share your feature using the form below. 

Submit Your Green Infrastructure Project

Times vary

Green Infrastructure Training – March 2, 9 & 16


Join us for a hybrid certification program featuring two half-day virtual sessions on March 2 & 9 as well as a full-day in-person field session on March 16. This course is geared for professionals and will focus on sustainable design, maintenance, and native plant choices.

Register Here

List of WIGI-Certified Professionals

For Landscape Professionals

The Watershed Institute periodically offers a new, voluntary credential for professionals who design, install, and maintain sustainable landscapes in New Jersey and surrounding areas.

The Watershed Institute and the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional’s active learning program engages participants to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative practice skills. This is especially important given the recent adoption of new policies in New Jersey that require developers to use green infrastructure as the primary means of managing stormwater.

Learn More Here!



For Municipal Officials

The Watershed Institute offers training in maintaining green infrastructure for municipal officials. Due to the new state stormwater ordinances requiring the use of green infrastructure, it is important that municipalities know how to maintain this investment so that it functions now and for the future.


Webinar Model Ordinance language

Model Ordinance

The Watershed Institute has developed a model ordinance to guide local towns and cities on how to craft their own measures. Our ordinance goes beyond the state’s baseline standards with additional enhancements.

Model Ordinance Language

Watch Webinar Here

Learn Some River-Friendly Practices

What is Your Water IQ

Water is also incredibly fragile and vulnerable to many threats, from various sources of pollution to climate change. How much water do you use? Where does flooding occur locally? The Watershed works with partner organizations on River-Friendly options to be more green at home and as stewards in their communities. Explore more with the links below!


Learn about River-Friendly Here!

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