WEFTEC Stormwater Wrap-up
WEFTEC 2012®, held Sept. 30 through Oct. 3 in New Orleans, featured three stormwater workshops and more than 75 technical presentations. Sessions covered topics from urban forestry and green infrastructure to managing peak wet weather flows to regulatory issues. Watch some of these sessions with WEFTEC On Demand. Recorded stormwater sessions include “Creating and Supporting Stormwater Utilities,” “Gray, Green, and Integrated Stormwater Design,” and “Clean Water Policy Update.” Using WEFTEC On Demand, there is also an option to earn educational credits.
WEFTEC’s first ever Stormwater Pavilion featured more than 30 exhibitors, with products ranging from those designed to prevent inflow and infiltration to those for capturing and using stormwater onsite. In addition to the latest equipment, there were also exhibitors offering services, such as stormwater certification programs. A showcase highlighted the best from stormwater exhibitors.
A “Books and Bagels” discussion highlighted WEF’s recently released Design of Urban Stormwater Controls. One of the authors, Daniel Medina, moderated the discussion, as he did in a webcast series about the book earlier this year (view the recordings here).
The Water Environment Federation’s Stormwater, Watershed Management, and Groundwater committees also met at WEFTEC to discuss future projects. The committees help to author and review water resources related publications, conference workshops and sessions, webcasts, and other products.
WEF Participates in White House Conference on Green Infrastructure
On Sept. 20, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) hosted an invitational conference titled “Municipal Stormwater Infrastructure: Going From Grey to Green.” The meeting included approximately 80 municipal officials, consultants, designers, and other experts and focused on barriers and incentives for implementing green infrastructure. Participants agreed on the importance of federal involvement in providing opportunities for wider implementation of green infrastructure. More work is needed to further the collection of data and technical resources and to disseminate information to water professionals, elected officials, decision-makers, and the public.
CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe provided opening remarks. The meeting included two panels, one moderated by Water Environment Federation (WEF) Executive Director Jeff Eger and the other moderated by Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Executive Director Kevin Shafer. The panels spurred discussion about various implementation and funding challenges. Meeting participants, including WEF Stormwater Committee Chair Michael Beezhold, worked in small groups to develop lists of barriers to mainstreaming green infrastructure implementation, along with a series of recommendations on how to overcome the identified challenges.
A document describing barriers to green infrastructure implementation, developed for EPA by WEF in 2011, served as a key resource for these discussions. A summary report will be made available later this year, and WEF will announce the document when it is available. For more information, check out this blog post by WEF’s Stormwater Program and Policy Manager, Seth Brown.
WEF Joins Amicus Brief to U.S. Supreme Court on Los Angeles Stormwater Case
A March 2011 appeals court decision held that the flow of water from one portion of a river through an engineered improvement into a downstream portion of the same river constitutes a regulated discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act (CWA). By this ruling, a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit would be required. Get more details about this case.
On Sept. 11, the Water Environment Federation and others on Sept. 11 filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the position that such a scenario does not constitute a “discharge” for purposes of CWA. The brief argues that the Supreme Court should reverse the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to avoid serious negative consequences for public agencies and authorities nationwide involved in water management for water supply, flood control, and related public purposes.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that transfers of water from one section of a waterbody to another do not qualify as a CWA discharge requiring a permit. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case Dec. 4.
WEF Releases Summary of Stormwater Technical Meeting
In July, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) held an invitational meeting to discuss issues and experiences implementing green infrastructure and low-impact development practices. The goal of the event was to assemble professionals in the stormwater sector to present information to officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality as these groups prepare to address significant regulatory changes in the stormwater sector. Meeting participants included professionals from the public and the private sectors, reflecting activities at the state and local level, as well as in land development and academic research arenas. A summary of the meeting discussions and the presentations is now available.
WEF Launches Water For Jobs Initiative
In a report released in 2011 — Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment— an estimated investment of $188.4 billion is necessary to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. Spread over the next 5 years, this investment could generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create nearly 1.9 million jobs. Check out this and other job-related statistics.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has launched a new initiative to increase the visibility of water in the current election campaign. Water for Jobs: Water Puts America to Work uses traditional and social media to let candidates and voters know that investing in water infrastructure creates jobs, promotes innovation and economic growth, and safeguards public health and water quality. Read more.
University of North Carolina Stormwater Utility Tool Enables Rate Comparisons
The University of North Carolina Environmental Finance Center has released a beta version of the 2012 NC Stormwater Utility Fees Dashboard. The tool enables users to compare, by impervious area, both residential and nonresidential fees charged by North Carolina stormwater utilities. The tool also gives users information on how bills are collected, revenues, and rate structures, as well as characteristics and historic fees for each utility. See other tools from the Environmental Finance Center.
NOAA Announces $800,000 for Living Shorelines
At an Aug. 30 press conference, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced $800,000 in federal, state, and private funding for Living Shorelines, a program to manage shoreline erosion in Chesapeake Bay. The program focuses on using sand and plants, which also create shoreline habitat, as opposed to bulkheads and seawalls, which can increase erosion. To date, Living Shorelines has funded 68 projects, creating 8500 linear m (28,000 linear ft) and 7.3 ha (18 ac) of wetland habitat.
Lawsuit Challenges Chesapeake Water Quality Trading Program
Food and Water Watch and Friends of the Earth have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The groups seek to invalidate the water quality trading scheme set up under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The groups claim that the “pay-to-pollute” trading program is illegal, undermines compliance with the TMDL, and sacrifices the successful point source permitting program. Read more.
WERF Releases Report Assessing the Effects of Low DO on Fish
The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) recently released a study on The Effect of Wet Weather Driven Dissolved Oxygen Sags on Fish in Urban Systems. In this study, researchers mounted dissolved-oxygen (DO) transmitters on fish to determine their response to wet weather combined sewer overflow events and low DO in the Chicago Area Waterway System. According to the study, largemouth bass were tolerant of low DO, as it had little impact on their movement or habitat choice. This report is free to WERF subscribers.
U.S. EPA Withholds Grant Money From Virginia Due to Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Efforts
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is withholding $1.2 million in grant money from Virginia, which was originally supposed to receive $2.4 million for Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts. EPA cited a lack of progress in reducing stormwater runoff from urban areas through strong and enforceable permits. Virginia is addressing weak points in the state’s stormwater program and can reapply for the funding after making improvements.
U.S., Canada Sign Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 2012
On Sept. 7, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent signed an updated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. For the first time in 25 years, the revised agreement commits the two countries to implementing Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts based on input from municipalities, tribes, states, provinces, businesses, and public interests. The agreement, last updated in 1987, addresses critical health issues in the Great Lakes region and is a model of binational cooperation to protect water quality. The two governments began negotiations in 2009 to strengthen the agreement. Read more.
On Sept. 13, as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), EPA gave more than $1.7 million to the Cleveland area for green infrastructure projects. In the last 3 years, GLRI has provided more than $29.8 million in grants to restore watersheds and improve Great Lakes water quality. The names of all grantees and their projects can be found here.
Government Efforts Focus on Mississippi Water Quality
The Mississippi River helps create $105 billion worth of U.S. gross domestic product and provides 18 million people with drinking water. New and continuing efforts are under way to improve and assess water quality.
From Sept. 12 to 14, the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative held its first meeting, a 2-day conference with 41 mayors from the Mississippi River Basin. The effort is coordinated by the Northeast–Midwest Institute in response to Hurricane Isaac, severe drought conditions, and other stressors. The initiative is intended to provide an influential voice in Washington, D.C., for the effective protection, restoration, and management of the Mississippi River. Read more.
Also, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force recently created the Mississippi River Monitoring Collaborative to evaluate nutrient reduction progress in local waterways that ultimately lead to the Gulf of Mexico. The collaborative consists of federal and state agencies. So far, the team has collected more than 670,000 nutrient data records from 12 states in the Mississippi River Basin. The data will be used to evaluate where conservation practices and policies are working and where new or enhanced nutrient reduction strategies should be developed.
The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative—a program to improve water quality in key Mississippi watersheds — is also working to improve monitoring on its pilot projects. Read more.
Public Comment Opens on Sustainable Sites Rating System
The Sustainable Sites InitiativeTM (SITESTM) 2013 Prerequisites and Credits document is open for public comment until Nov. 5. SITES is a certification and rating system that provides “voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.” It applies to both open spaces and those with buildings, and addresses hydrology, soils, materials, vegetation, and human health and well-being.
The American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S. Botanic Garden created SITES. The 2013 Prerequisites and Credits document incorporates experience from more than 150 projects participating in a 2-year pilot study. The final rating system and reference guide will be available in 2013.
Vermont Announces Green Infrastructure Initiative
On Oct. 3, Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) announced a statewide green infrastructure initiative for managing stormwater. ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears also announced that Vermont received $245,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Vermont will use the money to help municipalities plan and implement green infrastructure. An interagency group will meet Oct. 26 to plan implementation steps for this initiative. Read more.
Infil Philadelphia Showcases Green Infrastructure Projects and Hosts Design Competition
The Community Design Collaborative started Infil Philadelphia to promote workable, innovative design solutions to revitalizing older urban neighborhoods. Infil Philadelphia: Soak It Up! focuses on green stormwater infrastructure and will showcase selected projects from Sept. 17 to Oct. 19 at Philadelphia’s Center for Architecture. It also is hosting a national green infrastructure design competition, with a focus on retrofits. Registration is open from Oct. 4 through Nov. 30, and submissions are due Jan. 15.
Check It Out!
American Rivers recently launched its Green to Earn Green, a tool that helps users design a green roof using Google Maps. Users can simply type in their address, find their roof, and select the surface area to green. The tool automatically calculates the money saved and runoff prevented with the user’s green roof design.