The Economics of Low-Impact Development: A Literature Review

Posted on Jul 30, 2017 | ECONorthwest | November 2007

"Low-impact development (LID) methods can cost less to install, have lower operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, and provide more cost-effective stormwater management and water-quality services than conventional stormwater controls. LID also provides ecosystem services and associated economic benefits that conventional stormwater controls do not. 

The available economic research on some of these conclusions is preliminary or limited in scope. For example, most economic studies of LID describe the costs of installing LID, or compare the costs of installing LID with the costs of installing conventional controls. Few reports quantify the economic benefits that LID can provide in addition to managing stormwater. Fewer researchers report results of studies that measure at least some costs and at least some benefits of LID vs. conventional controls.

The costs and benefits of LID controls can be site specific and will vary depending on the LID technology (e.g., green roof vs. bioswale), and local biophysical conditions such as topography, soil types, and precipitation. Including developers, engineers, architects and landscape architects early in the design process can help minimize the LID-specific construction costs. 

Despite the fact the LID technologies have been promoted and studied since the early 1990s, for many stormwater managers and developers, LID is still a new and emerging technology. As with most new technologies, installation and other costs of LID are highest during the early phases of development and adoption. Over time, as practitioners learn more about the technology, as the number of suppliers of inputs expands, and as regulations adapt to the new technology, costs will likely decline. "