Equity & Resilience

The City of Worcester is committed to making the city and its population resilient to flooding, high heat, and other climate change impacts. 

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan

Our Plan

In 2019, the City put together a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan, identifying 3 critical hazards that will be exacerbated by climate change: Extreme Heat, Urban Flooding, and Winter/Ice Storms.

This plan guides the City as it takes strategic action to build equitable climate resilience in these vulnerable areas. 

Read the plan.

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan

What is Resilience?

“Resilience” is a term often used in discussing climate change actions. Climate change resilience is the ability of a community to adapt and thrive in the face of extreme shocks and stresses. Resilient communities anticipate risks, plan to limit their impacts and adopt strategies that integrate all community systems – civic, environmental, social and economic – to mitigate and support recovery from extreme events while providing a good quality of life. 

Check out the Climate Resilience in Worcester story map to visually see Worcester's past, present, and future resilient actions.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice in Worcester

The State of Massachusetts identifies an area as an Environmental Justice community if it has any of the following characteristics:

  • The annual median household income is not more than 65% of the statewide annual median household income;
  • Minorities comprise 40% or more of the population;
  • 25% or more of households lack English language proficiency; or 
  • Minorities comprise 25% or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150% of the statewide annual median household income.

Using these characteristics, the state government has designated approximately 92% of Worcester as an “environmental justice” community.

Data: MassGIS


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Climate Hazards

Heating Up

Urban heat can be dangerous. As temperatures climb, the most vulnerable members of our City can face serious health risks. In 2022, the City completed a Heat Risk Assessment which identified the most heat-vulnerable parts of Worcester. 

Climate Hazards

Urban Flooding

Climate change impacts, such as extreme storm events with high precipitation, can result in increased stormwater runoff and flooding.

The City is working on a Drainage and Green Infrastructure Master Plan and undergoing stormwater system assessment and modeling, in order to identify opportunities for green infrastructure, as well as develop improvements to the stormwater system. Master Plan goals are: 

  • To develop a comprehensive understanding of the municipal drainage system and its constraints in conveying stormwater runoff during peak events.
  • Identify the most vulnerable areas using infrastructure and social resilience framework.  
  • Prioritize actions to move toward a pipeline of near-ready projects that advance flooding resiliency, when funding allows, with a focus on a hybrid approach of nature-based solutions and grey infrastructure enhancements. 

Learn what Worcester is doing about flooding 

Street trees

Climate Solutions

Growing Worcester's Tree Coverage

Planting more trees (and protecting existing ones) is one of the most effective actions we can take to help reduce climate change impacts. 

The City of Worcester has established an Urban Forestry Tree Commission and also kicked off the development of the first Urban Forest Master Plan. The Plan will serve as a roadmap to proactively manage and grow the City's tree canopy and provide a shared vision for the future of the urban forest to inspire us to plant, care for, and protect our trees.

Climate Solutions

Cooling the City

The 2022 Heat Risk Assessment resulted in recommendations to develop more reflective surfaces and to increase the total tree canopy across Worcester by 30,000 – 35,000 trees. Tree investments will be prioritized in areas with a higher vulnerability and all trees added by the City will be positioned to shade impervious surfaces like pavement.

Climate Solutions

Miyawaki Forests in Worcester

In response to rising temperatures and urban heat in the Worcester, the City has planted two Miyawaki forests in downtown Worcester - one next to the Worcester Public Library in the McGrath Parking Lot and the second at the Plumley Village apartment complex.

 A Miyawaki Forest is a dense, biodiverse, native pocket forest whereby thousands of plants are installed in a very small plot of land. This method of planting, called the Miyawaki Method, is a unique approach to reforestation devised by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. These fast-growing and resilient tiny forests offer numerous ecological and human health benefits including flooding reduction, cooling the “urban heat island,” and boosting biodiversity.

This project was funded by a 2023 state-funded Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant. These forests were planted by hundreds of community volunteers in the Spring of 2024. 

Check out our project Story Map to learn all about it!

Miyawaki Forest Planting McGrath

Climate Solutions

Green Infrastructure

One of the best tools to combat flooding is Green Infrastructure: natural, sustainable projects that absorb stormwater and runoff, deflect heat, and even filter pollutants. Green Infrastructure is a new approach to development, contrasting traditional Gray Infrastructure, like underground pipes or concrete installments. 

The Green Worcester Plan prioritizes Green Infrastructure development, and the City has already completed many installments. In 2018, the City redesigned the Senior Center parking lot and built a large rain garden and bioswale where heat-absorbing pavement once stood. 

Learn more here! 

How You Can Help

Learn About Climate Resilience and Prepare for the Future

Use the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit to learn about climate resilience and identify risks and actions
Build a ready-to-go emergency kit
Prepare for extreme heat