Permeable pavement projects

Evidence Rating  
Scientifically Supported
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  

Permeable pavement, also called porous or pervious pavement, is a type of green infrastructure that is often part of low impact development efforts to make city landscapes more permeable. Permeable pavement can be made from a range of materials and techniques, including pervious concrete, porous asphalt, permeable interlocking pavers, open-jointed blocks or cells, and resin bound paving. Homeowners can install or retrofit a driveway or patio with permeable pavement, or commercial property owners can use it for a parking lot or walkway. Permeable pavement projects can also be larger scale efforts, encompassing sidewalks, low speed roads with light traffic loads, or parking lots throughout a city, county, or larger geographic region1, 2.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced run-off

  • Reduced water pollution

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced urban heat island effects

  • Reduced crashes

  • Reduced soil erosion

  • Reduced flooding

  • Increased wildlife habitat

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that permeable pavement projects reduce stormwater run-off and pollutant concentrations, especially total suspended solids and heavy metals3456789. Permeable pavement may reduce urban heat island effects when materials used function as cool pavement10, and reduce glare and automobile hydroplaning accidents11. Using permeable pavement and other low impact development techniques is also a suggested strategy to reduce soil erosion, protect communities from flooding, improve water quality, and preserve habitat, property, and other infrastructure121

Coordinated large scale efforts to use permeable pavement throughout a city, county, or region have a greater effect on water quality than small scale permeable pavement projects implemented in isolation13. Permeable pavement has been shown to infiltrate stormwater run-off in cold weather climates4, 9. Stormwater filtered through permeable pavement projects in cold climates after winter applications of salt can retain chlorides; design and maintenance adaptations in cold climates can reduce risks to groundwater4.

The effectiveness of most permeable materials varies with stormwater run-off volume14; a comparison of 10 different permeable surfaces suggests porous concrete has the greatest infiltration rates and the least variation15. Maintenance such as industrial vacuum cleaning, pressure washing, or milling can remove clogging material and retain permeability over time16. Permeable pavement projects with thicker subsurface layers of gravel more effectively remove total suspended solids (TSS) than thinner layers. Smaller gravel sizes may also increase TSS removal, but require more frequent maintenance than larger gravel layers17.

Costs for permeable pavements vary by the material used. Costs for porous concrete, for example, range from $2-$6.50 per square foot installed and costs for interlocking concrete paving blocks range from $5-10 per square foot installed. Although these costs are higher than the cost of installing asphalt per square foot, permeable pavement can cost less than full conventional concrete stormwater management systems18. Permeable pavement projects are particularly cost effective where land values are high and where flooding or icing is a problem1.

Additional research is needed to confirm effectiveness for higher speed roads with heavier traffic loads, especially highways2.

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

A few states have regulations that encourage sustainable water management, including techniques such as permeable pavement; California is one example19. Many states and cities have guidelines and strategic plans that encourage stormwater management best practices that include using low impact development and green infrastructure such as permeable pavement, rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, and rain barrels. Examples include Connecticut20, Minnesota21, Boston22, Los Angeles23, Muncie, Indiana24, San Diego25, and Washington DC26.

Implementation Resources

US EPA-LID - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Urban runoff: Low impact development (LID).

LSS-Stormwater - Lake Superior Streams (LSS). Tools for stormwater management.

MAPC-Sustainable water - Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Environment: Sustainable water management.

NAPA-Porous asphalt - National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). Porous asphalt.

NRMCA-Pervious pavement - National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA). Pervious concrete pavement.

ICPI - Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI). Carving a new path in town? Pavement systems that offer durability, life-cycle and aesthetics.

SEMCOG-LID 2008 - Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). Low impact development (LID) manual for Michigan: A design guide for implementers and reviewers. 2008.

CA DWR-Water efficient - California Department of Water Resources (CA DWR). Model water efficient landscape ordinance.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 US EPA-Green infrastructure - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). What is green infrastructure?

2 Kayhanian 2015 - Kayhanian M, Weiss PT, Gulliver JS, Khazanovich L. The application of permeable pavement with emphasis on successful design, water quality benefits, and identification of knowledge and data gaps. National Center for Sustainable Transportation. 2015.

3 Mullaney 2014* - Mullaney J, Lucke T. Practical review of pervious pavement designs. Clean - Soil, Air, Water. 2014;42(2):111-124.

4 Drake 2013 - Drake JAP, Bradford A, Marsalek J. Review of environmental performance of permeable pavement systems: State of the knowledge. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. 2013;48:203-222.

5 Ahiablame 2012* - Ahiablame LM, Engel BA, Chaubey I. Effectiveness of low impact development practices: Literature review and suggestions for future research. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. 2012;223:4253-4273.

6 Revitt 2014* - Revitt DM, Lundy L, Coulon F, Fairley M. The sources, impact and management of car park runoff pollution: A review. Journal of Environmental Management. 2014;146:552-567.

7 Imran 2013* - Imran HM, Akib S, Karim MR. Permeable pavement and stormwater management systems: A review. Environmental Technology. 2013;34(18):2649-2656.

8 Scholz 2007* - Scholz M, Grabowiecki P. Review of permeable pavement systems. Building and Environment. 2007;42:3830-3836.

9 Dietz 2007* - Dietz ME. Low impact development practices: A review of current research and recommendations for future directions. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. 2007;186:351-363.

10 US EPA-Wong 2008 - Wong E. Reducing urban heat islands: Compendium of strategies: Chapter 5 Cool pavements. US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2008.

11 LSS-Pervious pavement - Lake Superior Streams (LSS). Pervious pavement.

12 CDC-Water quality - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthy places: Water quality.

13 US EPA-LID - US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Urban runoff: Low impact development (LID).

14 Hoss 2016* - Hoss F, Fischbach J, Molina-Perez E. Effectiveness of best management practices for stormwater treatment as a function of runoff volume. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. 2016;142(11):5016009.

15 Alizadehtazi 2016* - Alizadehtazi B, DiGiovanni K, Foti R, et al. Comparison of observed infiltration rates of different permeable urban surfaces using a Cornell sprinkle infiltrometer. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering. 2016;21(7):6016003.

16 Winston 2016* - Winston RJ, Al-Rubaei AM, Blecken GT, Viklander M, Hunt WF. Maintenance measures for preservation and recovery of permeable pavement surface infiltration rate – The effects of street sweeping, vacuum cleaning, high pressure washing, and milling. Journal of Environmental Management. 2016;169:132-144.

17 Huang 2016* - Huang J, Valeo C, He J, Chu A. The influence of design parameters on stormwater pollutant removal in permeable pavements. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 2016;227(9):311.

18 LIDC-Bioretention costs - Low Impact Development Center (LIDC). Urban design tools: Bioretention costs.

19 CA-SB 7 - California Legislative Information. Senate Bill (SB) 7. Part 2.55. Sustainable water use and demand reduction: Chapter 5: Sustainable Water Management. 2009.

20 Fuss & O’Neill 2013 - Fuss & O'Neill. Quinnipac River: Watershed based plan. 2013.

21 MN PCA-Stormwater - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MN PCA). Stormwater management: Low impact development and green infrastructure.

22 MAPC-Sustainable water - Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Environment: Sustainable water management.

23 LASAN-Green infrastructure - City of Los Angeles, LA Sanitation & Environment (LASAN). Watershed protection program: Low impact development, green infrastructure, and more.

24 MSD-Stormwater management - Muncie Sanitary District (MSD). Stormwater management.

25 San Diego-Water conservation - City of San Diego. Water conservation.

26 DC DDOT-Green infrastructure - Washington DC, District Department of Transportation (DDOT). Green infrastructure.

Date Last Updated