Multi-City Stormwater Challenge

By 2050, it is projected that two-thirds of us will live in cities. Urban life can provide many social and economic advantages, but our current way of living is unsustainable. Environmental challenges such as flooding, pollution and heat stress are increasingly affecting cities and this is only expected to worsen in the face of climate change.


Addressing these challenges will require bringing together the interests and contributions of all stakeholders including municipal governments, communities and corporations. Earthwatch has a long standing partnership with HSBC to develop global programs that engage HSBC employees in field-based research programs that contribute knowledge about environmental challenges but also advance sustainability programs at the bank. Starting in 2018, HSBC and Earthwatch launched the Sustainability Training Program with six cities in the US and Canada: New York, Buffalo, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver.





These one day programs combine hands-on fieldwork with interactive classroom sessions on sustainability issues and solutions. 

The field work is addressing knowledge gaps in the functionality of bioswales (vegetated infiltration pits) over time and is being led by scientists from Brooklyn College, University of Arizona and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Local municipal partners guide the choice of bioswales to be monitored and will use the data to improve the design, positioning and management of them.

Local HSBC employees in the US and Canada come to the one-day programs and are trained as citizen scientists to monitor the performance of bioswales, allowing the research team to gather more data than they ever could alone. The HSBC employees conduct infiltrometer tests, examine soil conditions and determine key parameters of the local microclimate. These field measurements are complemented by the deployment of long-term sensors.

By creating a hands-on experience, feedback has shown that participants feel more connected to, and have a greater understanding of environmental issues and how they can make a difference to be more sustainable. Our program encourages action at the business and local level to strive towards a more sustainable future.

If you’d like to get your business or community involved please contact us at

Participants assess the condition of a bioswale.

Participants assess the condition of a bioswale.

Participant measures the infiltration rate of a bioswale.

Participant measures the infiltration rate of a bioswale.

A scientist explains how to do the research.

A scientist explains how to do the research.

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Earthwatch depends on donations—above and beyond what we raise from volunteers who participate on our expeditions—in order to deliver our global conservation mission. In fact, volunteer contributions provide only half of the total resources Earthwatch needs to sustain over 40 field research expeditions, a wide variety of educational programs, corporate sustainability trainings, and more each year.