Publication Date

December 2021

Green infrastructure increasingly is used to ameliorate water quality and quantity problems caused by runoff in cities. Studies show how the spatial distribution of these Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) sites are unevenly distributed relative to socioeconomic and demographic groups. Often this is described as an indicator of perpetuated environment injustice, given the purported social and environmental benefits of GSI. To assess equity, researchers often examine either who gets what with respect to environmental ‘goods’ such as tree canopy and other green infrastructures, or investigate the procedures, decision making processes, and power structures pertaining to planning processes. This paper uses both spatial analyses to examine where GSI is located and who lives nearby in New Haven, CT, and illuminates the processes by which those locations were determined. An environmental injustice pattern was not observed: most GSI were located in low-income communities of color. However, the process that led to the siting had very little to do with who was living where. Instead, GSI siting decisions were determined by funding opportunities and their site selection criteria, flooding, combined sewer infrastructure, and avoiding infrastructure conflicts on a street segment. Future spatial analyses could consider the implicit or explicit baselines for equity in light of the processes and constraints that determine how and where GSI gets installed, and better incorporate the process of green infrastructure allocation in the chosen analytical metrics. By examining the process (ie the “how”) and the outcomes (ie the “what went where”) this study broadens the spatial analyses to include embedded knowledge from those who actually make the decisions that ultimately determine the location of GSI.