New Porous Pavement Can Absorb Water on Roads

A startup is piloting a paving material that lets rain flow through it to be absorbed in the ground.

Pedestrians on a rainy day in the city.

(M. Rohana /

Summer rain cools you off and creates beautiful rainbows in the sky. But where does all the rainwater go? Rain on roadways usually ends up in storm sewers but too much water can be a problem. Now, a new startup has created a porous material that will allow water on paved surfaces to absorb into the ground.

This pavement was developed by the Spokane, Washington startup AquiPor in response to the increase of precipitation that has been causing flooding in the US and globally. Too much rain can clog city storm sewers and allow runoff to go directly into our waterways and that causes flooding as well as adds pollutants from debris into our drinking water.

Urban areas are especially prone to this because water has no place to go. According to the startup almost 40 percent of all land in the US is impervious because it consists of paved roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. “Pavement has a use,” AquiPor CEO and co-founder Greg Johnson told Fast Company. “But the problem is that we have too much of it in our cities.”

The way to overcome this is to add more green spaces to cities but urban areas will still have a lot of paved areas. That's where the new pavement will help. Johnson said that the new design has tiny submicron sized pores that will allow water to flow through and leave larger particles on the surface.

This will allow cities like Los Angeles – that often suffers from both droughts and heavy rains – to refill aquifers, according to Fast Company. “The more water that you can get into the ground naturally, the better it is for just the natural hydrologic cycle anyway,” Johnson said. “You do not want all that water going out to the ocean because, in essence, then it becomes wasted. And what we’re looking at is stormwater as an asset.”

But repaving all urban areas is a very costly and unnecessary expense. Johnson told the Spokane Journal that the startup envisions using the new paving material on the sides of streets and sidewalks as well as around storm drains.

“We’re not coming out to compete with them [concrete producers]. We want to give them a new tool,” Johnson told the journal.

The idea took around a decade to come to fruition when co-founder Kevin Kunz was a Washington State University student and took an environmental engineering course. His first try at developing the material was not successful. Then he and Johnson started working with Matt Russell, a professional engineer and they created their special formula.

Now, the startup  is manufacturing material for a pilot test on private land. The test will be run on parking lots, sidewalks, and other paved materials according to Fast Company. If successful, this could provide a much less expensive alternative to upgrading infrastructure.

The city of Spokane just upgraded storm tunnels and stormwater tanks at a very large cost. Using AquiPor's pavement in key neighborhoods could have saved the city a large amount of expense.

As climate change transforms weather patterns, storms are getting stronger and dumping larger amounts of rain, new technology like porous pavement could be a big asset for cities around the globe.  

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