Green Roads for Water

There is probably no intervention globally with more impact on surface hydrology and landscapes as the construction of roads. Roads obstruct the flow of water, guide run-off, and accelerate it, and in the process trigger erosion and sedimentation.  In watersheds roads may rewrite the entire drainage pattern. In flood plains and coastal low lands they cut areas in two, causing waterlogging in one place and drying up in other places. This is one side of the story. The other part is that for road engineers water is usually highly problematic: water is seen as the prime enemy of roads. Particular in rural roads, water is the main cause of damage.

All this can be turned around by developing ‘green roads for water’ - These are roads that have secure transport functions combined with beneficial water management and climate resilience. The opportunities are abundant: road bodies and road crossing can be used to systematically harvest water; road bodies and culverts can control water levels in wetlands and agricultural areas. Integrating road and water development can contribute to flood protection, sand harvesting, regreening, nature protection and sand dune control.

Helping farmer to increase their income with improved road water management
Regreening roadsides and protecting communities from dust

With an estimated global investment of USD 1.5 Trillion, the contribution that roads can make – apart from improved access and connectivity - to climate resilience and water management, is enormous.

In MetaMeta we are aiming to change the way roads and roadsides are developed and maintained worldwide by incorporating water management, climate change adaptation and environmental protection into the design and maintenance of roads. There is a wide variety of available techniques to harvest road run-off depending on the geography as wells as on the local needs for water. These techniques can be applied on existing roads but also can be incorporated in the design of new roads.

We are working in more than 10 countries to introduce this practice under our Green Roads for Water Learning Alliance, our community of practice working with governments, road authorities, private sector, civil society and communities living around roads. We have developed guidelines with major organizations. The cost of applying green roads for water measures is usually very low in comparison to the total road investment and has a very high payback.


Global Road Achievement Award​Global Road Achievement Award

For the Green Roads of Water Program MetaMeta was honoured with the Global Road Achievement Award by the International Road Federation in 2015 and was the runner-up to the Zilient Resilience Award in 2018.

The work we do is:

  • Road water assessments – identifying the best options along selected roads
  • Working with engineers and implementers to design better practice
  • Developing guidelines appropriate to specific countries and situations
  • Training and coaching towards a change in culture and governance for green roads for water
  • Developing strategies to optimize the wider socio-economic benefits of road development and road construction 
Green Roads to Water