Urban stormwater retention capacity of nature-based solutions at different climatic conditions

Margit Kõiv-Vainik* (Corresponding Author), Keit Kill, Mikk Espenberg, Evelyn Uuemaaa, Alar Teemusk, Martin Maddison, Monica M. Palta, Liliana Törökc, Ülo Mander, Miklas Scholz, Kuno Kasak

*Corresponding author for this work

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Climate change and the continuing increase in human population creates a growing need to tackle urban stormwater problems. One promising mitigation option is by using nature-based solutions (NBS) – especially sustainable urban stormwater management technologies that are key elements of NBS action. We used a synthesis approach to compile available information about urban stormwater retention capacity of the most common sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) in different climatic conditions. Those SUDS targeting stormwater management through water retention and removal solutions (mainly by infiltration, overland flow and evapotranspiration), were addressed in this study. Selected SUDS were green roofs, bioretention systems (i.e. rain gardens), buffer and filter strips, vegetated swales, constructed wetlands, and water-pervious pavements. We found that despite a vast amount of data available from real-life applications and research results, there is a lack of decisive information about stormwater retention and removal capacity of selected SUDS. The available data show large variability in performance across different climatic conditions. It is therefore a challenge to set conclusive widely applicable guidelines for SUDS implementation based on available water retention data. Adequate data were available only to evaluate the water retention capacity of green roofs (average 56±20%) and we provide a comprehensive review on this function. However, as with other SUDS, still the same problem of high variability in the performance (min 11% and max 99% of retention) remains. This limits our ability to determine the capacity of green roofs to support better planning and wider implementation across climate zones. The further development of SUDS to support urban stormwater retention should be informed by and developed concurrently with the adaptation strategies to cope with climate change, especially with increasing frequency of extreme precipitation events that lead to high volumes of stormwater runoff.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100038
Number of pages13
JournalNature-Based Solutions
Early online date11 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: This research was supported by the Estonian Research Council (grants no PSG631, PSG714, PRG352, PUT1125, MOBERC34, MOBERC20, MOBERC44, SLTOM19480), the Water JPI 2018 Joint Call project RainSolutions and by the European Union (EU) through the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence EcolChange).

Data Availability Statement

Data availability: Review database is added to Supplementary material file.

Supplementary materials: Supplementary material associated with this article can be found, in the online version, at doi:10.1016/j.nbsj.2022.100038.


  • Bioretention system
  • Constructed wetland
  • Filter strip
  • Green infrastructure
  • Green roof
  • Permeable pavement
  • Vegetated swale


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