As many cities and local municipalities face the increasing problems associated with climate change, many are turning to trees to rebuild the natural environment and ecosystems within their urban cores. Many are choosing to increase their tree canopies in order to conserve energy, remove carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air, provide habitat for animals, and much more. While urban tree canopies have countless benefits, and should be protected and expanded, they also have costs. These costs are often direct dollar values that fall onto the responsibility of the local municipalities. Costs include maintenance, debris cleanup, irrigation, infrastructure repair, and much more. One specific cost that has little research to report on is the cost associated with stormwater management and water quality control in local waterways. Tree debris, mostly leaves, can cause a threat to local waterbodies by depositing excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus to the waterway. This can lead to eutrophication of waterways, algae blooms, and decreased dissolved oxygen levels in the water. As tree canopies increase, the need to collect this debris increases. This is done mainly through increasing street sweeping efforts. This thesis has analyzed the costs associated with street sweeping in the City of Orlando. Not all leaves are collected through street sweeping, and many will still end up in waterways, impacting water quality. This thesis also has analyzed the cost associated with leaves entering waterways in City of Orlando lakes by quantifying the cost of nitrogen and phosphorus loading to waterways. These are the two main areas where future costs will increase as tree canopies increase. Therefore, it is important for all cities and municipalities to prepare for these costs as they choose to expand their tree canopies. While it is incredibly important for cities and municipalities to expand urban tree canopies, it must be done in a strategic way that uses “right tree, right place” habits as well as budgets for the immediate costs as well as long term costs.
Science, Technology and Public Policy (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Public Policy (CLA)
Rain, Lisa, "The Influence of a growing urban tree canopy on municipalities and urban stormwater: a cost analysis" (2019). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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