About Blueprint Columbus

Why Now?

In Columbus, there are sanitary sewers and storm sewers. Sanitary sewers take the water from your house to be treated. Storm sewers take rain water from streets and driveways to a nearby river or stream, without being treated.

Our sanitary sewer system works well most of the time, but rain water and snow melt can seep into the system and overload it through cracks in underground pipes and improper drainage. This excess water enters the sanitary sewer from yards, roofs, downspouts, foundation drains, improperly connected sump pumps, uncapped cleanouts, cracks and breaks in pipes, joint failure, faulty connections and other openings. This can cause sanitary sewers to overflow into our rivers and streams and causes the sewers to back up in some resident’s basement.

Sewer overflows are not unique to Columbus. Cities across the country are experiencing the same problem: the amount of water entering the sanitary sewer system is exceeding the system’s capacity to hold it. Until recently the solution was to increase the system’s storage capacity by building larger pipes. But that is not truly a solution because it does not keep the rain water from entering the system in the first place.

The City of Columbus has developed a new approach to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows. Instead of simply storing excess water that seeps into the sanitary sewer system when rain falls and snow melts, Blueprint Columbus addresses the source of the problem by installing green infrastructure and improving residential infrastructure in our neighborhoods. This prevents the water from entering our sanitary sewer system in the first place. You can learn more about the four pillars of Blueprint below.

The Four Pillars of The Blueprint Project

Why Blueprint?

It is greener. Blueprint Columbus will be significantly better for the environment than the original plan because of the green infrastructure contained in the improvements. The addition of gray infrastructure (i.e. larger sewer tunnels) would be able to eliminate remaining overflows, but Blueprint will do it in a manner which will also improve storm water discharges, resulting in better water quality.

It is more affordable. Even with the accelerated schedules the City will be able to manage rate increases. Unlike the previous gray infrastructure plans, the Blueprint plan should not create any double digit rate increases.

It is more innovative. One of the most exciting aspects to Blueprint is its creativity. Sanitary sewer overflows occur when rainwater gets into the sewer and overwhelms it. The traditional solutions just treat the symptoms – too much water in the sewers – by building larger pipes. Blueprint attacks the root of the problem by addressing the rain water that is entering the sewer system. Instead of building more infrastructure, Blueprint will invest in rehabilitating and correcting existing infrastructure.

It is better for our neighborhoods and our local economy: Blueprint will create neighborhood amenities. For instance, in the Clintonville pilot area, the City is proposing to build a porous pavement street, which will include a sidewalk. In the Barthman-Parsons pilot area, the City is building a park, rain gardens, and a porous pavement basketball court. Blueprint will also create more jobs and have a greater impact on our local economy.

It is what our community wants: The City has done significant public outreach as part of this planning effort. This includes an advisory panel, focus groups, canvassing surveys, and educational events. While many residents are concerned about rates, once it is explained that there is no “do-nothing” alternative, the community has been in over-whelming support of Blueprint. As the Dispatch opined “If the city of Columbus has to spend $2.5 billion to stop storm water from overwhelming sanity sewer lines, getting the job done by turning roadside strips, vacant lots, and patches of park into grassy rain gardens is far more appealing than building 28 miles of underground tunnels that would be empty all but a few days per year.” Columbus Dispatch Editorial, March 19, 2014 

You can learn more about the planning efforts for Blueprint Columbus here.