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This Week in Washington



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 storm events 

WEF Events 

Sept. 29–Oct. 3
New Orleans


Member Association Events 

Virginia Water Environment Assoc.
WaterJAM 2012 
Virginia Beach, Va.
Sept. 10–13
With stormwater presentations 

New York Water Environment Assoc.
2012 Watershed Science and Technical Conference 
West Point, N.Y.
Sept. 13–14

Georgia Association of Water Professionals
2012 Fall Conference & Expo 
Dalton, Ga.
Nov. 13–14
With stormwater presentations 


Other Events 

Community Consultation for Sustainability Planning 
Sept. 13
1–2:30 PM (EDT)

Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Stormwater: Green Solutions Beyond Grey Pipes 
Sept. 18-19
Harrisburg, Penn.

Texas Water Resources Institute 
Watershed Planning Short Course  
Sept. 24-28
Bandera, Texas

Water Quality Standards 101  
Oct. 4
1–3 p.m. (EST)

Washington State University
Rain Garden Workshop
Oct. 11–12
9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 
Bremerton, Wash.

Australian Stormwater Industry Assoc.
Stormwater 2012
Oct. 15–19
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  Sept. 6, 2012                                                Vol. 2, No. 9  

 storm feature 



Staying Green During Drought  

Pictures of parched corn stalks and scorched, cracked soils have pervaded news stories calling the current Midwest drought the worst in 50 years. In late July, about 53% of the U.S. was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor.  

At the same time, managing stormwater using green infrastructure is now a growing focus of efforts to improve water quality. How can these green practices flourish in the midst of a drought?

According to Richard Keagy, vice president of URS Corporation in North Carolina, there are typically four parts to creating a successful stormwater management approach — appropriate design, soil amendments, correct installation, and adequate maintenance — and all can be tailored for drought resistance.

Design. “It’s better to use a treatment train with various methods of treatment, some structural, some nonstructural, some vegetative, and some not,” Keagy said. “Then, if one system fails during drought periods, the other systems can still provide water protection during rain events.”

Having several treatment areas that are dispersed can also prevent the system from getting overloaded during peak periods, making it more effective at water treatment.

While certain methodologies are consistent across the country, designs should reflect local soil and climate as well as particular pollutants of concern. In drier climates, it is important to utilize drought-tolerant plants that can withstand low-water and high-heat conditions — particularly if they will be near roads or parking lots. In addition, they should be able to tolerate varying wet and dry conditions, though “a properly constructed best management practice (BMP) should be wet only for a short period of time,” Keagy said. “Unless of course, it is a wet pond.”

Grasses are typically very drought tolerant, as are trees and shrubs with deeper penetrating roots. “These plants can survive longer drought periods because their roots grow downward versus outward to seek out water,” Keagy said. Many plants native to the Southwest are also drought tolerant, he added.

Plants often are a key component of removing particular pollutants. However, if necessary, “use elements that don’t have as many plants,” said Keagy. “Instead of using a rain garden, you may use a wet pond depending on the situation and location.” Adding volume control to a treatment train can also help with those intense, high-volume storms.

Other stormwater controls such as rain barrels and pervious pavement also have their place in managing stormwater in drought-prone landscapes.

Soil amendments. A mixture of sand, compost, and top soil gives plants nutrients and holds water but still allows for infiltration. “Look at the native soil, then determine how to amend the soil to allow water to infiltrate but also allow plants to thrive,” said Keagy. The soil beneath the rain garden media also may need to be amended, depending on the soil characteristics, Keagy said.

Installation and maintenance. “Installation and the maintenance of BMPs in the first year are extremely important,” said Keagy. “For a BMP to survive and thrive, when and how it is planted is essential to its performance during drought.”

While maintenance of drought-tolerant landscapes is minimal after the initial establishment period, plantings need a regular watering schedule during their first year. In addition, practices should be inspected on a monthly basis during the summer.

Richard Keagy will present at WEFTEC® 2012 as part of the session Key Emerging Stormwater Issues: Skating Ahead of the Puck. The session, organized by Andrew Reese, vice president of AMEC, will consist of other timely and innovative topics presented by leaders in the stormwater field. Check out more than 75 presentations dedicated to stormwater at WEFTEC 2012.  

 Storm news 

 EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Keynote Special Water Leaders Session at WEFTEC 2012  

/uploadedImages/Access_Water_Knowledge/Stormwater_and_Wet_Weather/Stormwater_Reports/stormdrain(1).jpg Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will deliver the keynote address during a special water leaders session on Monday, Oct. 1. The session, “Rethinking Water Services: Navigating Our Water’s Future,” will take place at WEFTEC® 2012 from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. in the New Orleans Theatre of the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. The Administrator’s keynote, “40 Years of Clean Water and Innovation for Tomorrow,” will revolve around 2012 as the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. She will talk about the critical role of innovation in the achievements of the past 40 years, in the protections for water today, and in the strides we need to make in the future. The Administrator also will discuss the economic importance of clean water and innovation.

The session, facilitated by Water Environment Federation Executive Director Jeff Eger, will feature a number of industry thought leaders. Read more.


WEF to Aid Wetland Construction in New Orleans’ City Park 

pondThe Water Environment Federation’s Students and Young Professionals Committee will host its fifth annual service project, "Bogging in the Big Easy." The project, part of WEFTEC® 2012, will be held at the 526-ha (1300-ac) City Park in New Orleans, Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The wetland construction project will help return vital recreation opportunities to New Orleans while enhancing wildlife habitat and providing stormwater management and water quality improvements. Read more.


Green Infrastructure Gets White House Attention 

storm drainThe White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) will host an invited conference titled Municipal Stormwater Infrastructure: Going From Grey to Green on Sept. 20. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is helping to plan the conference. The event will focus on barriers to implementing green infrastructure, including funding and financial challenges, benefits associated with green approaches, and opportunities for wider implementation.  The goal is to provide a series of recommendations from conference participants on how to put more green infrastructure in the ground across the country.  

Conference speakers will include CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe, and EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner.  WEF Stormwater Committee Chair Michael Beezhold will participate in the conference along with other WEF members, and WEF Executive Director Jeff Eger will moderate a panel discussion on green infrastructure success stories.  A summary report will be made available after the event, and WEF will announce the document when it is available.


WEF Seeks Speakers for Special Stormwater Session at Americana Conference 

The Water Environment Federation is seeking presenters for a special stormwater session to be held during Americana 2013, March 19-21 in Montréal, Quebec. The stormwater session will cover all aspects of sustainable stormwater and watershed management issues, including green infrastructure, low-impact development, and integrated water management.    

If you are interested in submitting, please prepare a 1- to 2-page summary of your presentation. Please include a title and your full contact details at the top of your summary and submit it to Interested speakers must submit their summaries by Oct. 5, 2012.  Read more.


EPA Opens Registration for New Campus RainWorks Challenge Competition    

Registration opened Sept. 4 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Campus RainWorks Challenge. Student teams of undergraduate and graduate students are invited to create an innovative green infrastructure design for a site on their campus showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment. Winning teams will earn a cash prize, as well as research funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage stormwater and create healthier urban environments.

To compete, student teams — working with a faculty advisor — must submit design plans for a proposed green infrastructure project on their campus. Winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013. Two first-place winners each will receive a $2500 cash award and $11,000 in research funding; two second-place winners each will receive a $1500 cash award and $8000 in research funding. Teams must register by Oct. 5 and submit their entries by Dec. 14.  In 2013, EPA plans to expand the campus RainWorks Challenge by inviting students to design and complete a demonstration project assessing innovative green infrastructure approaches on their campuses. Learn more and register.


DDOE Releases Proposed Rulemaking and Draft Guidance on Stormwater Management   

On Aug. 10, the District of Columbia Department of the Environment (DDOE) published its Proposed Rulemaking on Stormwater Management and Soil Erosion and Sediment Control. Along with the proposed rule, DDOE also released a Draft Stormwater Management Guidebook. Public comment on the proposed rule and draft guidance is open until Nov. 8. The proposed rule is also described in more detail in an open-access Water Environment & Technology article — “Making Stormwater Retrofits Pay” — written by DDOE’s Brian Van Wye.

The District of Columbia is working to implement a precedent-setting stormwater permit with a 1.2-in. retention standard. The proposed rulemaking is an effort to create flexible compliance alternatives by providing offsite options. The proposed rule also creates a financial incentive through a trading program that uses Stormwater Retention Credits, which can be sold to regulated sites.


EPA Releases Assessment Guide for Stream Restoration Projects 

Urban stormwater significantly impacts not only water quality but also the physical stability and condition of headwater streams due to flashy and frequent erosive flows.   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the release of A Function-Based Framework for Stream Assessment & Restoration Projects. According to EPA, stream restoration is relatively young and still evolving, yet it is recognized as a billion-dollar industry. This document discusses how stream functions — hydrology, hydraulics, geomorphology, physicochemical properties, and biology — are interrelated and build on each other in a hierarchy. The framework focuses on each of these functions, discussing the development of function-based assessments, restoration goals or performance standards. The document also places the restoration efforts that occur within a stream reach into a watershed context, emphasizing site selection.


 Cincinnati Zoo Incorporates Stormwater Features into Africa Exhibit    

Earlier this summer, Sarah ran a 100-meter dash in 5.95 seconds, the fastest recorded 100-meter run by any animal on the planet and more than 3.5 seconds faster than world-record-holder Usain Bolt. Sarah is a cheetah living in the Africa exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo — recognized as one of the greenest zoos in the U.S.  Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) partnered with the zoo to remove it from the stormwater grid. The zoo has more than 2787 m2 (30,000 ft2) of pervious pavement, green roofs on the Giraffe Ridge Barn and Primate Center, and rain gardens throughout. The African Savannah exhibit, now under construction, will have 3 ha (8 ac) of green space, bioswales, and pervious concrete. A large underground tank will collect stormwater for irrigating the exhibit.  MSD estimates that these features will help the zoo capture an average of 45 million to 57 million liters (12 million to 15 million gallons) of stormwater per year. Check it out.


Tennessee Offers Green Infrastructure Grants    

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is partnering with the Tennessee Stormwater Association, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to offer $350,000 in green infrastructure grants to local governments. Local governments must provide a 20% match and submit proposals by Sept. 30. Learn more.


Australia Announces $42 Million for Stormwater Harvesting and Use    

On Aug. 8, the Australian government announced $42 million in grant funding for nine stormwater harvesting and use projects. The projects will help the country capture and treat more than 5.5 billion liters of stormwater per year for irrigation and industrial purposes. Particularly in dry climates, these projects help Australia diversify water supplies and avoid the costs of treating and transporting drinking water for these purposes. The grant recipients must also fulfill 100% of their energy needs with renewable sources or offset their carbon footprint.

This is the third round of grants issued by the Australian Government as part of their Water for the Future initiative to secure water supplies and reduce reliance on traditional sources. After this round of grants, the government has committed more than $200 million toward stormwater harvesting and use. By 2050, Australia hopes to be harvesting up to 75 gigalitres (20 billion gallons) of stormwater per year. Read more.


 In Focus: Save the Rain To Protect Onondaga Lake  

In 2009, Syracuse, N.Y., became the first community with a legal responsibility to reduce combined sewer overflows using green infrastructure. Save the Rain is Onondaga County’s green infrastructure campaign to improve Onondaga Lake’s water quality. By 2018, the county plans to capture 946 million liters (250 million gallons) of stormwater per year by constructing more than 50 green infrastructure projects and offering grants for projects on private property. Investments in low impact development are projected to total nearly $80 million, accounting for about two-thirds of future CSO reductions. Furthermore, according to county representatives, this approach could save up to $20 million compared to traditional stormwater management techniques.

Save the Rain includes some high-cost, high-profile projects, such as the rainwater harvesting system on the War Memorial Arena where captured rainwater is treated and used as ice for the Syracuse Crunch’s hockey rink. The program also includes an urban forestry program that will plant 8500 trees throughout local communities.  According to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, urban trees typically have a life span of less than 10 years. However, Onondaga County is using a product — in this case the Silva Cell — intended to prevent soil compaction and maintain drainage and aeration around the tree’s roots. Proper species selection and maintenance are also important. Check out Save the Rain publications, including a green infrastructure maintenance binder. Read more about Onondaga Lake in Water Environment & Technology (WE&T). Water Environment Federation members receive full access to all online archived issues of WE&T.


 Mayor Bloomberg Celebrates First Harvest of NYC’s Largest Rooftop Garden   

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg toured Brooklyn Grange’s second location at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as the new rooftop farm celebrated its first harvest. Brooklyn Grange is New York’s largest rooftop farm at 4000 m2 (43,000 ft2) and was financed in part by a New York City Department of Environmental Protection Green Infrastructure Grant. The farm is capable of producing 9072 kg (20,000 lbs) of produce and absorbing more than 3.8 million liters (1 million gallons) of stormwater each year. Read more.


 California Introduces New Pesticide Regulations   

In late July, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced new restrictions on structural pest control applications, which are applied around buildings to control ants, spiders, and other insects. The goal is to protect urban water quality by limiting pesticides applied on impervious surfaces and eliminating spraying during rainfall, on standing water, or over drainage areas.

The restrictions apply to pest control businesses and to 17 pyrethroid insecticides specifically. These particular insecticides were found in urban waterways and are toxic to sensitive aquatic organisms. DPR also has requested voluntary product labeling on pyrethroid products. According to the government-funded Urban Pesticides Pollution Prevention Project (UP3 Project), the restrictions and labeling program should reduce pyrethroid insecticides in urban stormwater runoff by 80% to 90%. Read more from the UP3 Project.


 Center for Biological Diversity Aims to Stop Plastic Pollution   

On Aug. 22, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set national water quality criteria for plastics. According to the petition, every year plastic threatens hundreds of thousands of marine mammals and sea birds due to entanglement and ingestion, and its main source is urban runoff.

The Center for Biological Diversity is looking to EPA for both qualitative and numeric standards. Only Los Angeles and the District of Columbia currently have total maximum daily loads for trash. Read more.


 Hurricane Isaac Puts New Orleans Drainage System to the Test   

Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina breeched New Orleans’ levees causing flooding in about 80% of the city. However, New Orleans now boosts a new $14.5 billion flood protection system designed for a 100-year storm. The system consists of 563 kilometers (350 miles) of levees, floodwalls, floodgates, surge barriers, and pump stations. The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier is nearly 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) long and is the largest barrier of its kind in the world. According to news sources, floodgates, numbering 73, are designed to withstand a Category Three hurricane.  Within New Orleans alone, the system contains 24 pumping systems, which can move more than 110 billion liters (29 billion gallons) per day. Read more.

The Water Environment Federation will hold WEFTEC® 2012 in New Orleans. Participants will have the opportunity to tour the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex, part of the New Orleans Drainage System.

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Check It Out! 

City of Columbia Organizes Roots and Blues Storm Drain Mural Project  

From images of peaceful koi ponds to fierce tigers, the murals local artists painted on Columbia, Mo., storm drains were designed to create awareness about water quality. The goal is to remind the public that stormwater drains directly to the Flat Branch watershed, which flows into Hinkson Creek and eventually into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. The city partnered with Thumper Entertainment and ran the event as part of the company’s annual Roots N Blues N BBQ event. Read moreSee pictures of the storm drains.