April 2013, Vol. 25, No.4

From the editors

April Showers

Hopefully as you’re reading this the April showers that jump to mind are warm spring rains and not late-season snowstorms. (With the number and severity of snowstorms that have blanketed much of the U.S. this past year, it’s hard to tell.) 

Unpredictability in weather duration, frequency, and severity is a good segue into how green infrastructure can benefit utilities. Whether the flows are from snowmelt, gentle soaking spring rains, or deluges from summer thunderstorms, incorporating natural systems can help extend the life and effectiveness of existing gray infrastructure solutions. 

When it comes to stormwater control and treatment, green infrastructure can reduce the effect of nonpoint sources and achieve cost savings, especially in areas with combined sewer systems. This is the case in Lancaster, Pa., where the combined sewer system can’t keep up with the area’s growth as well as intense rainstorms and other wet weather events. Because Lancaster’s waters flow into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the city faces extra pressure to control its discharges. 

Given the expense of gray infrastructure modifications, the city has instead opted for a two-pronged strategy to reduce the volume of CSOs: increase the efficiency of the city’s existing gray infrastructure, and employ green infrastructure stormwater management methods. Find out how Lancaster is seeking to become a model example of the application of the integrated municipal planning and green infrastructure promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency beginning last October. 

But green infrastructure and natural systems can do more than just help with wet weather issues. They also can help move the water quality needle, as the Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky (SD1) has discovered. While SD1’s story stems from a consent decree to control wet weather, the decree fosters “integrated watershed management to make real improvements in water quality at times when the improvements would most benefit potential users of local water resources,” according to the article. 

Instead of focusing solely on preventing pollution from reaching the waters, SD1 created a pilot wetland system to reduce bacteria and nutrient loads from a local creek during most flow conditions. In its first year, the pilot project, which is pictured on the cover, successfully reduced total suspended solids, orthophosphate, and bacterial concentrations. While these preliminary results should not be considered conclusive, the article says, they do provide encouragement that a watershedwide management approach could meet water quality objectives and that this approach could be more cost-effective than traditional gray infrastructure overflow controls alone.