Houston City Council embraces nature-based infrastructure to fight water pollution

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Anna Farrell-Sherman

The new incentive program gives tax abatements to property owners who incorporate nature-based infrastructure features like rain gardens and constructed wetlands.

Environment Texas

AUSTIN — This morning, the Houston City Council voted to approve a new tax abatement program to promote nature-based infrastructure, features like rain gardens and constructed wetlands, which can help keep pollution out of our waterways while mitigating flooding and reducing urban heat.

In Houston, as across Texas, bacteria, excess nutrients, oil and toxic chemicals increasingly pollute waterways. Nature-based infrastructure, also called green stormwater infrastructure, allows stormwater to soak into the ground, filtering out pollution while slowing floods, reducing erosion, and reducing urban heat. Houston’s Climate Action Plan emphasizes nature-based features because of their ability to mitigate the effects of climate change. These nature-based infrastructure can remove up to 90% of solid pollutants in stormwater.

“This is an important step toward a resilient and sustainable Houston. It represents a more holistic approach to the issues of flooding and climate change that we are tackling with the support of our private sector,” said Council Member Kamin, who authored the amendment that created the program. “Green stormwater infrastructure needs to become the new normal in Houston, and I’m glad we’re making progress toward that goal.”

The non-profit organization Environment Texas testified last week in support of the proposal, which they say will help make Houston a statewide leader in nature-based stormwater management. 

“It is exciting to see Houston putting communities first,” said Anna Farrell-Sherman, Clean Water Associate with Environment Texas. “No one should face floods of toxic water through their backyard when it rains. This program is the first step towards a different sort of future for Houston.”

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center gave Houston a grade of 50% on its 2020 Stormwater Scorecard, ranking the city 8th in the state for its support of nature-based stormwater management. To improve Houston’s score, the report recommended the City create green stormwater infrastructure incentives for private developers. With the new tax abatement program, the city could tie for 3rd place, joining San Antonio and Austin as a statewide leader in protecting its citizens from the dangers of flooding and water pollution.


Environment Texas is a state-wide advocate for clean air, clean water, and open spaces. Learn more at www.envrironmenttexas.org