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Low Impact Development Becoming City Priority

The San Antonio City Council voted on Feb. 18 to endorse the strengthening of rules pertaining to low-impact development (LID) as a way to encourage more developers to implement LID components in projects.  Low-impact development promotes enhanced storm-water management as a key portion of a larger attempt to expand the overall level of water quality through several methods, including a decrease of flood peaks and the usage of natural features.

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Specifically, this strategy employs engineered small-scale hydrologic controls to mimic the pre-development hydrologic regime of watersheds through infiltrating, filtering, storing, evaporating, and detaining runoff close to its origin.  City officials say the council’s backing of the low-impact development ordinance will give developers more incentives to help protect the area’s watershed.

The San Antonio River Authority was instrumental in promoting low-impact development as a voluntary design option for city officials to include in their rules. Rain gardens are one example of low-impact development. A rain garden is intended to use native plants along small ditches to filter pollutants from water that drains off a roof and through gutters. The purified water, after passing through the garden, makes it into area waterways in a cleaner way. The low-impact development movement has picked up steam in San Antonio in the last few years.

Winning Design in SARA's LID competition for Port SA Complete Streets
Winning Design in SARA’s LID competition for Port SA Complete Streets

During a design competition in 2013, Port of San Antonio was chosen as a low-impact development project as it embraces the new urbanism principles to help raise density through multi-family, mixed-use development within an area receiving high runoff volumes. The idea of increasing and diversifying land uses, capturing and reusing rain and storm water, and incorporating sustainable complete streets—all near the San Antonio River and River Walk—made Hemisfair an attractive competition site during the same design competition. The city’s first LEED Gold certified building, the Parman Library in Stone Oak, implemented several methods of low-impact development.

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