Approaching Stormwater Challenges with Sustainable Design

The current stormwater program in the United States is on the brink of change. A recent report from the National Academies suggests significant changes to the current EPA stormwater program are required to improve the steadily degrading quality of our nation’s waterways.

Jan 1st, 2009

The current stormwater program in the United States is on the brink of change. A recent report from the National Academies suggests significant changes to the current EPA stormwater program are required to improve the steadily degrading quality of our nation’s waterways.

The major recommendation in the report is to change the current permitting structure to a watershed-based approach. While this represents a radical shift that will take time to investigate and test, there are smaller-scale changes that can be implemented in the meantime to begin to restore the health of community watersheds.

The adoption of low impact development (LID) techniques and implementation of “green” infrastructure strategies, for example, can go a long way toward mitigating the deleterious effects of urban runoff. Both of these topics and more will be discussed at the upcoming Urban Water Management Conference & Exhibition, taking place March 24-26, 2009, in Overland Park, KS.

The event, sponsored by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the City of Independence, MO, Water Pollution Control Department, and the Kansas City Water Services Department, will feature a comprehensive conference program exploring topical issues in the stormwater industry, including Best Management Practices, capital improvement planning, stormwater program management, regulatory and compliance issues, and much more.

Presentations at the conference will look at how many communities across the country are already forging ahead to incorporate “green” technology into their stormwater management programs. The town of Tolland, CT, is one such example.

Located about 20 miles northeast of Hartford, Tolland recently became the first town in the state to adopt regulations mandating that LID strategies be applied to all types of land use in the town. Like many communities, Tolland struggled with the initial decision to adopt LID largely because it didn’t know how to go about the process. After several discussions and consultations with civil engineers focused on the benefits of LID implementation, town officials recognized the significant benefits LID could offer and embarked upon the process of adopting regulations.

With the help of a consultant and the town’s extensive GIS data, sections on LID were written into the existing zoning, subdivision and wetland regulations, which were subsequently reviewed, revised, and ultimately approved.

In another example of green design, the city of Dallas, TX, recently commissioned the development of a master plan for a 180-acre outdoor athletic complex at the site of a former landfill. The development of a soccer facility on the former landfill site not only provides the city with much needed facilities to serve the soccer playing community, it also provides a unique opportunity to implement various environmental initiatives, including sustainable design and stormwater quality improvement.

Serving as a model for progressive “green” goals, the project increases urban park area and trail networks, and establishes a prime location for a water reuse application. The design of the complex incorporates multiple sustainable design concepts – such as bioswales, rainwater harvesting systems, and buffer cells – that address both the quality and quantity of stormwater and irrigation runoff from the site.

With its combined sewer system and history of flooding, Kansas City, MO, is an example of a city perfectly positioned for demonstrating the use and effectiveness of applying green infrastructure for combined sewer overflow (CSO) control.

Extensive modeling and economic studies, as well as recent funding opportunities, have led to the selection of Kansas City as a case study location to demonstrate the efficacy and sustainability of green infrastructure approaches. The intent of the project is to compile data and demonstrate the water quality and quantity results from larger scale application of LID or micro-BMP retrofits in a subcatchment.

Installed monitoring equipment will measure changes in peak flow, total volume and pollutant mass of storm events and overflows for a two-year period. The project also includes working with community-based partners to plan, design, implement, monitor and evaluate green infrastructure acceptance from a socio-economic context.

These are just a few examples of how communities around the country are taking the initiative to meet their stormwater challenges with sustainable, green approaches. Each of these case studies, and many more, will be presented at Urban Water Management 2009 in Overland Park, KS. For complete conference and registration information, please visit www.urbanwatermgt.com.

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