Blue Alleys is an innovative project designed to reduce stormwater runoff in our ultra-urban communities.

Photo credit: Lisa Roca

Blue Alleys Rainwater

The Blue Alley Program is a pilot effort to add innovative stormwater reduction practices in Baltimore’s ultra-urban neighborhoods. 

The first phase used pervious alleys and green curb bumpouts, both of which allow polluted runoff to soak into the ground before entering storm drains that empty into our streams, rivers, and harbor. With the help of local residents, we’re turning crumbling alleys and busy intersections in the neighborhoods of Butchers Hill and Patterson Park into pollution-prevention showcases!

Why Blue Alleys

Stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing type of pollution in the region, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), accounting for one-sixth of all the nitrogen and phosphorus and one-fourth of the sediment polluting the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, stormwater runoff also picks up the trash on our streets, sidewalks, alleys, and parking lots and washes it down the drain, and carrying it directly to the closest stream.

In an effort to reverse the trend, Blue Water Baltimore began the Blue Alley Project. Funded by both the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Baltimore City, the project provides runoff reduction by replacing existing impervious surfaces with permeable pavers and bioretention systems that filter and store the stormwater before it reaches the harbor.

“The Blue Alley Project is not designed to get all the rain to soak down into the ground,” said Nick Lindow, an engineer with Biohabitats. He added, “The aim is to slow stormwater runoff and filter out the pollutants — oil, grease, dog waste — before it gets to the storm drain and into the harbor.”

Blue Alleys in Baltimore

Beginining in 2010, Blue Water Baltimore eagerly spearheaded this innovative project, bringing together partners and funding to help Baltimore communities become leaders in stormwater management. Our local partners that offered an amazing level of support include: Butchers Hill Association, Patterson Park Neighborhood Association, Center for Watershed Protection, Biohabitats, Baltimore City Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Works.

After three years of planning and design, the Blue Alleys Project was finally installed in the summer of 2014, with three pervious alleys and four curbside bioretention cells in the Baltimore City neighborhoods of Butchers Hill and Patterson Park. Combined, these practices treat stromwater runoff from 4.36 acres of impervious surface.

Ashley Traut,Senior Manager of Innovative Stormwater Projects, explains how storwater pollutants will be filtered out allow the water to become a more naturally groundwater.
Ashley Traut, Senior Manager of Innovative Stormwater Projects, explains how the permeable pavers will filter out storwater pollutants.

You Can Make a Difference Too

While innovative public green infrastructure projects like Blue Alleys play a critical role in stormwater runoff reduction, ultimately, we all need to do our best to deal with our stormwater before it leaves our property.

Blue Water Baltimore staff works to determine the best opportunities for simple methods of residential stormwater reduction, such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and conservation landscaping.

You can also get your congregation involved (possibly reducing your stormwater fee) through Blue Water Congregations. A number of incentives are available to anyone interested in installing such practices and helping to restore our waterways.