Rain Check Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are some of the most frequent questions we’ve heard. Contact us if your question isn’t answered below.

Why Green Infrastructure?Why green infrastructure?

Like all U.S. cities, Buffalo faces a stormwater challenge. Taking a lesson from Mother Nature’s playbook, green infrastructure is all about managing stormwater where it falls. Natural landscapes, soils and wetlands have the ability to absorb or capture rain and snowmelt. These tools are designed to manage the flow of stormwater into our sewer system and provide many benefits to Buffalo. Buffalo already has many green infrastructure installations and over the next several years will be adding many more.

Where does my water go?Where does my water go?

In dry weather, our combined sewer system only has to carry wastewater and sewage from our homes and businesses to the sewage plant where it all gets treated before being released into the Niagara River. In moderate and extreme precipitation events, large volumes of untreated stormwater runoff carrying pollutants from impervious surfaces can drain into the combined sewer system, mixing with wastewater before being released into local waterways. Use Google Earth to find the CSO locations in your area. Sign up to receive discharge alerts to your phone or email.

Why is Buffalo Sewer focusing on certain areas?Why is Buffalo Sewer focusing on certain areas?

Buffalo Sewer uses a computer model to simulate how water falling on land in the City enters and moves through the sewer system. Using that model, we learned that we can reduce combined sewer overflow events in many areas of the City by managing runoff from impervious surface. In 2014, Buffalo Sewer made a legal commitment to use green infrastructure to manage the runoff from at least 1,315 acres of impervious surfaces in targeted areas of the City. In 2017, Buffalo Sewer mapped and analyzed the impact of work completed in the first phase of Rain Check. Based upon that work, it selected six focus areas for Rain Check 2.0 where Buffalo Sewer will focus on managing runoff from approximately 500 acres of impervious surfaces .

What if I live outside a focus area?What if I live outside a focus area?

While Buffalo Sewer has identified six focus areas for projects that it plans to implement in this phase of the Rain Check program, it is always looking for partnership opportunities throughout the city to create more green infrastructure. Buffalo Sewer will also identify other areas of the city to focus on in future phases.

What does the Green Code require for stormwater management?What does the Green Code require for stormwater management?

The Green Code requires that all land development activity must manage construction and post-construction stormwater runoff in accordance with section 7.3. Depending on the size of your project, different requirements will apply. Where practicable, stormwater management facilities should utilize green infrastructure tools.

Can I install Green Infrastructure at my home?Can I install green infrastructure at my home?

Yes, you can! Many green infrastructure tools—including rain gardens, downspout disconnections, rain barrels, and porous pavement—can be both beautiful and practical solutions for solving our stormwater challenge at your home. Find information on how to get started with these resources.

Can Green Infrastructure handle Buffalo winter?Can green infrastructure handle a Buffalo winter?

Green infrastructure has been implemented successfully in many cold and snowy places, including Milwaukee, Cleveland, Syracuse, and Toronto. Green infrastructure practices that direct runoff to permeable areas can also prevent icy surfaces since less water flowing over hard surfaces means fewer opportunities for water to sit and ice up. Good planning will help green infrastructure perform well through the winter months. Plants in areas that receive runoff from roads, sidewalks, and parking areas should be selected for salt-tolerance. Permeable pavements can get clogged if sand is applied as a de-icer. With good design and maintenance, green infrastructure will help Buffalo solve its stormwater challenge through all seasons.

How is Green Infrastructure maintained?How is green infrastructure maintained?

Green infrastructure maintenance ranges from regular landscaping like weeding, to vacuuming of permeable pavement, and clearing debris from rain garden or bioswale inlets. Some of these practices will be carried out by Buffalo Sewer. Some will be carried out by property owners. Additionally, green infrastructure maintenance can create jobs for Buffalonians and often be lower cost than maintenance of other stormwater management techniques.

Do rain gardens look wild and messy?Do rain gardens look wild and messy?

Not necessarily. Rain gardens sometimes have a more “natural” appearance, but they can be designed to meet any aesthetic. They can be given a neater look by using the right mix of plants, and maintaining them regularly. If a more manicured look is desired, it’s important to use shorter plantings and to keep edges well defined. Whoever is maintaining the site will need to weed out invasive plants, especially in the first few years, as they can choke out the intended plantings and make the garden messy or wild. Tips for selecting native plants and installing and maintaining rain gardens can be found in the Resources.

Will green infrastructure breed mosquitoes?Will green infrastructure breed mosquitoes?

If designed and implemented correctly, green infrastructure can actually prevent mosquitoes by eliminating standing water. Mosquitoes typically take 7 days to develop from larvae to adults. Green infrastructure holds water temporarily and no longer than 72 hours. Rain gardens can and should be maintained in such a way as to not create mosquito breeding grounds.

Where can I see examples of Green Infrastructure?Where can I see examples of green infrastructure?

Buffalo has many examples of green infrastructure created by the City and with partners on private property. You can find more information on these many projects or take a tour to see them for yourself.

Can I find local Job and Volunteer Opportunities?Can I find local Job and Volunteer Opportunities?

Creating a wide variety of green job opportunities is one of the benefits of green infrastructure. Each project involves a range of design professionals, community engagement specialists, project managers, construction workers and maintenance teams. Through agency leadership, professional and workforce training programs, and first source and minority hiring programs, the green infrastructure job ladder can support a more equitable and inclusive green infrastructure workforce.

What are Training and Educational Opportunities?What are Training and Educational Opportunities?

As green infrastructure is adopted across the country, new training and educational opportunities are regularly being developed. The National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP) has created a new national standard for green infrastructure training and knowledge for practitioners. PUSH Buffalo offers training programs, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper offers Water Academy, and the Stormwater Educator’s Toolbox offers many curricula for students of all ages. Lear more with these resources.

What benefits does green infrastructure have beyond the stormwater challenge?What benefits does green infrastructure have beyond the stormwater challenge?

Because green infrastructure investments are above ground for all to see, they can offer unique benefits to our environment, economy and community. These benefits include cost savings for installation and maintenance over traditional “gray” stormwater infrastructure. This direct, above-ground investment enhances community aesthetics, supports public health and safety, and creates local jobs.

What Can I Do About It?What Can I Do About It?

There are many actions you can take to address our stormwater challenge, including Everyday Green Opportunities. You can also install green infrastructure at your home or on your property. Under Buffalo’s Green Code, depending on what you’re doing at your property, you might also be required to install green infrastructure or other stormwater management tools. The Resources page has more information on how you can be part of the stormwater solution.