So many of us are faced with stormwater and wet weather issues that are complex and have significant associated costs. There is so much happening with regulations, training, and the need for public education. It is so critical that everyone involved in these issues has the best and most updated information available, and the Water Environment Federation is committed to providing it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently is undergoing major rulemaking on stormwater regulations — the “biggest change in a generation” — according to one EPA official. Effluent and turbidity discharge limits from construction sites are being proposed, legislation requiring federal payments of stormwater fees has been passed, and sanitary sewer overflows and green infrastructure received renewed focus from EPA with the unveiling of EPA’s updated Green Infrastructure Strategy in May. And these are just the developments on the federal level.
To reflect the many changes regarding stormwater, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) has ramped up its own efforts on these issues.
|Jeanette Brown, 2010–2011 WEF President. Photo courtesy of Oscar and Associates Inc. (Chicago).
First of all, I have to mention the energy from WEF’s leaders. In a previous column, I introduced you to Jeff Eger, WEF’s new executive director, and I described his background in green infrastructure. Since that time, it has become clear that Jeff not only has a background in stormwater, but also has a passion for it. Great changes often start at the grassroots level, but strength and focus at the top don’t hurt either.
WEF also established the Stormwater Coordinating Council last year, which was the culmination of an internal review by the board of trustees in which they took stock of WEF’s programming, policy, and collaborative potential and determined a need to address stormwater.
The council met at WEFTEC® last year, and since then has held regular conference calls to share what WEF committees are doing in stormwater. This group sees the advantage to work with WEF Member Associations (MAs) on stormwater, as several of these groups have formed their own stormwater committees. The council also is in the process of developing another body that ideally would be populated by MA stormwater committee chairs, professionals who practice primarily in stormwater issues, and researchers and academics who focus on stormwater.
WEF needs to put this internal work to good use by developing products, such as publications, programming, and events that focus on stormwater and wet weather issues, which requires input and assistance from all of WEF’s members. Many are already pitching in, including the WEF volunteers who currently are putting the finishing touches on an updated stormwater book, webcasts, and upcoming seminars on stormwater utilities.
In addition, WEF has submitted a proposal to EPA to develop a technical publication on green infrastructure that will target the nuts-and-bolts, practitioner-level audience. And WEFTEC 2011 will feature continuous stormwater and wet weather programming in every time slot. This includes a special “hot topic” session on industrial stormwater and a National Environment Priorities session featuring high-level EPA officials and a panel discussion on green infrastructure focusing on the economic benefits of this practice.
To address the rising demand on funding issues related to stormwater, WEF is presenting a stormwater utility seminar in Chicago on Aug. 2, which will focus on technical, legal, and policy issues. A similar seminar is in the planning stages for later in the year. WEF also is planning a stormwater symposium for the summer 2012. If you want to help plan this event or get involved in any of WEF’s other stormwater activities, contact Seth Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members who want to keep up to date on stormwater news and events and WEF’s activities in the areas of stormwater, watershed management, and wet weather can sign up for WEF’s new free, monthly e-newsletter, The Stormwater Report, at www.wef.org/stormwater.
With all of this going on, WEF cannot work in a vacuum. Collaboration with other organizations and outreach, inside and outside of WEF membership, is crucial to our mission to disseminate information, represent the water-quality professional community, and ultimately, be the “go-to” organization on stormwater.
WEF is working hand in hand with many groups, including the Association of States and Interstates Water Pollution Control Administrators (Washington, D.C.), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), American Rivers (Washington, D.C.), and others to develop a list of principles we can agree on to provide a united front on stormwater when the proposed rulemaking comes out in September. WEF also acts as a reviewer for the American Society of Civil Engineers (Reston, Va.) Environmental and Water Resources Institute’s development of a safety guideline document focusing on stormwater design.
At the regulatory level, WEF has formed a partnership with EPA on green infrastructure through a series of meetings, webcasts, publications, and technical events. This significant partnership reflects EPA’s trust in WEF’s technical strength and ability to deliver high-quality products, feedback, and non-biased technical input on critical issues.
The topic of stormwater is growing in importance, and WEF is rising to the call to provide more resources on the topic. Even at the board of trustees meeting, held the first week in May, stormwater was discussed during a presentation by Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Water, that focused on updates on regulations related to stormwater and wet weather issues. I am proud to see WEF staff and members engaging so readily on this important topic and encourage those not already involved to start.