The Bluebelt Program

1 - Sweet Brook Bluebelt

Bluebelts are ecologically rich and cost-effective drainage systems that naturally handle the runoff precipitation that falls on our streets and sidewalks. Originally implemented in Staten Island, the program preserves natural drainage corridors including streams, ponds, and wetlands, and enhances them to perform their functions of conveying, storing, and filtering runoff precipitation or stormwater. In addition to being an excellent mechanism for reducing urban flooding and improving the health of local waterways, Bluebelts also provide open green space for their communities and diverse habitat for wildlife since they are not constricted by closed pipes or underground infrastructure like traditional storm sewers. As New York City prepares for rising sea levels and heavier rains due to climate change, Bluebelts offer a natural and effective solution for stable and sound stormwater management.

For additional information, watch our bluebelt videos. You can also view NYC H2O’s Bluebelt Storymap.

Bluebelt Watersheds

A watershed is a geographic area that contributes water to a particular stream or waterbody. The Staten Island Bluebelt system drains 15 watersheds clustered at the southern end of the Island, in addition to the Richmond Creek watershed. The combined area of these 16 watersheds totals approximately 10,000 acres. The Bluebelt drainage plan for these 16 watersheds connects natural drainage corridors with conventional storm sewers for an integrated stormwater management system.

Wetlands located within the watershed areas act as flood control measures. Urban wetlands are especially valuable because impervious surfaces, like streets and rooftops, increase the rate, velocity and volume of stormwater runoff. By temporarily storing stormwater, urban wetlands help protect adjacent and downstream property owners from flood damage.

We have an ongoing program to purchase wetland properties for inclusion into the Bluebelt system. Other publicly and privately owned wetland areas are also incorporated into the system. These properties include New York City park land, New York State wetland preserves, Designated Open Space, and other City-owned properties.

How You Can Protect our Bluebelts and Waterways

  • Discharge your laundry water into a sanitary sewer, if possible. Laundry water pollutes the Bluebelt.
  • Check your car for leaks. Take used motor oil and antifreeze to local gas stations for recycling.
  • Use biodegradable detergents when washing your car. Wash it in a location where you can minimize the flow of detergents into storm drains.
  • Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces.
  • Clean up after your pets. Pet waste contains harmful nutrients and pathogens that can contaminate surface water.
  • Dispose of yard waste properly. The NYC Department of Sanitation collects yard waste for composting.
  • Follow directions closely when using fertilizers and pesticides to avoid polluting run-off.

If you see illegal dumping in progress, call 311 or fill in this online form. For more information on ways you can protect our waterways from harmful subtances, visit Safe Disposal of Harmful Products.


  • 2019: Public Design Commission Special Recognition Award
  • 2017: Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision Silver Award
  • 2003: New York Association of Consulting Engineers, Diamond Award for Blue Heron Drainage Plan
  • 2003: American Academy of Environmental Engineers, Honor Award
  • 2003: American Council of Consulting Engineers, National Recognition Award
  • 1997: New York Association of Consulting Engineers, Platinum Award for Richmond Creek Drainage Plan
  • 1996: American Rivers, Urban River Restoration Award for Staten Island Bluebelt Project