a team of engineers and urban planners at MIT has developed a solution to climate change-causing floods: multifunctional urban stormwater wetlands and ponds that seamlessly integrate the control and cleaning of stormwater with ecological and recreational benefits. the proposal combines engineering, urban planning, and landscape architecture expertise to design a versatile green space.


the design features a series of clustered islands which are modular and scalable so they can be tailored to fit the needs and resources of varying urban settings. on top of managing stormwater, the wetland or pond creates greenery for the city, recreational space for the community, and valuable wildlife habitats.

MIT proposes series of ponds to combat urban floods caused by climate change

artist’s rendering showing houston with an adjoining engineered urban green space and wetlands area

images courtesy of MIT / by jonah susskind



these wetlands control the water’s movement maintaining it for a time in order for the ecosystem to improve water quality. wetlands purify water through a combination of biological and chemical processes, including giving contaminants time to settle out of the water. wetland vegetation is another good filter, as plant surfaces and the biofilms they support are very effective at capturing pollutants and excess nutrients.


MIT engineers envision these green spaces as having a multitude of benefits. they include recreational trails, connecting city streets to inviting green space as well as providing multiple ecological habitat zones. the larger islands can hold event spaces for public programming, while floodplains can be used as sports fields, picnic areas, or playgrounds.

MIT proposes series of ponds to combat urban floods caused by climate change

paved spaces, such as this example in southern california, keep stormwater on the surface where the water picks up and carries pollutants to nearby bodies of water, often including the local water supply



the MIT team has released the details of their study in a freely available report, ‘design guidelines for urban stormwater wetlands,’ in the hope that cities will adopt this approach. the guidelines have yet to be used in practice, however the team is currently in contact with city leaders in several locations about the prospect of building a pilot wetland systems.