Camden, New Jersey Uses Green Infrastructure to Manage Stormwater

Camden, New Jersey Uses Green Infrastructure to Manage Stormwater

Project Summary

Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority provides wastewater services (80 million gallons per day) to approximately 500,000 people in 37 municipalities in Camden County, New Jersey. Historically, the Utilities Authority has experienced combined sewer flooding during intense rain events due to the age of their system and the lack of available funding for infrastructure replacement. Realizing that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of storms, the utility operators at the Utilities Authority decided to better understand the utility's current and future vulnerability.

Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Utilities Authority used the Climate Ready Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT) to gain greater appreciation of the magnitude of its combined sewer overflow and other vulnerabilities and identify potential adaptation strategies. The Utilities Authority's operators formed a partnership called the Camden SMART initiative, consisting of:

  • the local municipality
  • state environmental protection agency
  • local university
  • local non-profits

This partnership enabled the municipality to integrate water conservation and promote a comprehensive network of green infrastructure programs and projects that could help Camden adapt to future conditions. Building off of the success of Camden SMART, USEPA partnered with the City of Camden, the Utilities Authority, Cooper's Ferry Partnership and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to form the Camden Collaborative Initiative to use the collective impact model to address air quality, solid waste and neighborhood revitalization concerns, in addition to flooding.

While the site's operators did not explicitly use climate models to projected vulnerabilities, the actions taken increased resilience to current flooding threats and adapted the site to better manage risks associated with projected increases in the frequency and intensity of future storms, including flooding. Overall, the site has adapted to climate change by repairing and raising critical areas of the site to handle increased precipitation and flooding threats and reduce threat of contaminant release now and into the future.

Implementation

To start, the Camden Collaborative Initiative assessed its climate vulnerability. Camden used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Ready Evaluation and Awareness Tool to understand the magnitude of climate vulnerability, particularly for combined sewer overflow vulnerability to projected precipitation changes.

Next, the Initiative developed adaptation response recommendations to improve water quality and reduce combined sewer overflows. They started by identifying adaptation actions including: enacting a water conservation ordinance to reduce water inputs into the sewer system, reducing impervious surface and runoff through promoting rain gardens and parks, daylighting streams, converting buildings to parkland and cleaning inlets and replacing netting systems. One Camden SMART project disconnected a library’s rooftop runoff from the combined sewer system by designing two rain gardens to capture, filter and infiltrate the first one-inch of rainfall.

Finally, the Camden SMART partnership helped to implement its network of green infrastructure projects and other adaptation measures 

Applicable Tools

Similar Case Studies

  • To see how another northeastern community analyzed the impact of sea level rise on a water utility, view the Manchester-by-the-Sea case.
  • For a community that recognized the prohibitive cost of protecting a highly vulnerable facility and decided to move to a safer facility, see the Iowa City case.
  • To see how Washington, D.C. is using green infrastructure to reduce stormwater impacts and combined sewer overflows view the D.C. Consent Decree case