Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Stephanie E. Hurley


The impervious surfaces of built landscapes create stormwater runoff that causes water quantity and quality problems downstream, upsetting natural hydrology and harming aquatic ecosystems. Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) includes practices that reduce the amount of stormwater runoff and the pollutants it carries utilizing plants, soils, and other materials to capture, store, reuse, infiltrate, evapotranspire, and filter stormwater. GSI helps to restore developed landscapes, mimicking natural hydrologic processes and providing important water treatment functions as well as beneficial green spaces in urban areas. However, there are many challenges associated with the implementation and maintenance of GSI in our communities and cultures.

This research explores the human side of implementing GSI, investigating current maintenance capacities in rural and urban settings, and exploring multifunctional benefits of GSI to provide both biophysical and cultural ecosystem services (CES). Research goals include characterizing the current state of GSI implementation and maintenance in municipalities in the State of Vermont (USA) and eliciting lessons that can inform GSI design practices and policies. Multifunctional GSI design objectives that provide and enhance CES are described, revealing opportunities to instill values and a sense of stewardship for the health wellbeing of people and ecosystems.

The first chapter provides relevant topical background to set the stage for the latter two chapters. The second chapter analyzes results from a survey of municipal officials in Vermont that occurred as part of NSF-EPSCoR-funded Basin Resilience to Extreme Events project research on stormwater management. The survey included questions about GSI and maintenance practices in place and perceptions of visual appeal and ability to maintain bioretention systems shown in landscape visualizations. Results show that visual appeal and perceived maintainability of vegetated bioretention practices do not appear to be significant barriers to adoption and operation, but stormwater policy and funding are shown to be both significant barriers and solutions to implementing and maintaining GSI in Vermont municipalities. Additionally, urban and rural towns provide very different contexts for implementing and maintaining GSI in Vermont and characteristics of development patterns and maintenance capacity should be considered in policy, regulations, outreach, and education.

The third chapter offers a literature review, guided by a CES framework, of design elements that can be included in GSI to create multifunctional urban green spaces. CES categories of aesthetic, recreation, education, sense of place, social capital, and stewardship benefits framed a set of design elements, principles, practices, and documented benefits to guide multifunctional design of GSI. Findings include the importance of participatory processes to elicit diverse landscape values, visible water pathways, biodiversity, spaces for creative use, accessibility, interaction with water, interpretive signage, and artful and biophilic design features to enhance feelings of preference, pleasure, relaxation, learning, connection, and inclusion. The health and wellbeing of water and people must be integrated into the design of GSI for cities to be ecologically functional and culturally meaningful to their populations.



Number of Pages

183 p.