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A Good Primer on Run-Off

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  • Potter at Island Resources
    [Although directed at issues in the Chesapeake Bay, this short article by Kincey Potter, a friend of mine, provides insights into the POLICY and PRACTICES that
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2007
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      [Although directed at issues in the Chesapeake Bay, this short
      article by Kincey Potter, a friend of mine, provides insights into
      the POLICY and PRACTICES that need to be pursued to keep erosion and
      sediment runoff from killing everything in the coastal waters of the
      Caribbean. . . bp]

      Fixing the problems of stormwater runoff

      By Kincey Potter, South River Federation

      We frequently hear that the Chesapeake Bay is not getting healthier
      because though improvements have been made to decrease pollution,
      millions of people are moving into the watershed and increasing
      pressures on the Bay.

      The population increases by 170,000 every year, and we lose 100 acres
      of forest every day. And it's not just population growth but how we
      are growing that causes problems.
      >From 1990 to 2000, hard surfaces grew five times faster than the population.
      Most of us have heard about the damage caused by runoff from hard
      surfaces in rainstorms.

      Stormwater runoff, especially on the Western Shore of Maryland, is
      the major source of pollution for our rivers and the bay.

      Many of us have seen streams and creeks deteriorate after major
      development has taken place nearby.

      And some of us are concerned about our wells running dry, partly
      because rainwater that previously was absorbed into the earth is now
      being immediately piped into the creeks.
      So what do we do to protect the bay and still allow development?

      Many knowledgeable people including environmentalists, developers and
      regulators believe that one significant answer is environmental site
      design (ESD), also known as low impact development (LID).

      ESD techniques are not new and have been used in Maryland for the
      past 15 years.
      They combine methods that reduce hard surfaces and preserve landscape
      functions that improve the site's ability to absorb the rain.

      The most important element is to design the development to fit the
      topography of the land so that the natural features of the land -
      good soils, forests and coastal wetlands - are used as much as
      possible to manage the water flow.

      Streets in new subdivisions can be made narrower to reduce hard
      surface area, and adjacent swales buffered with grass (or vetiver)
      will infiltrate water.

      Clustered houses allow preservation of the forest on a development
      site and forests can be used to manage water flows from roofs and
      paved surfaces.

      Soils that are stripped and compacted during construction can be
      treated to absorb more rain. Turf lawns in new developments are
      second only to hard surfaces in generating runoff.

      In more dense development, such as commercial areas or townhomes,
      rain barrels or rain gardens or bio-retention areas will filter the
      water from parking lots, removing toxins and providing a recharge for

      Vegetated or green roofs on commercial buildings can hold as much as
      80 percent of annual rainfall and at the same time reduce heat
      reflected from rooftops into the atmosphere.

      Prior to this year, laws and regulations allowed, but did not
      require, the use of ESD techniques.

      Consequently, the use of ESD has not been widespread.

      On new development sites we continue to see stormwater ponds that
      empty stormwater directly into the creeks, even if more slowly.

      This spring of 2007, the Maryland General Assembly passed important
      legislation that requires the use of ESD techniques in new
      development and redevelopment.

      The Stormwater Act of 2007 is arguably the strongest stormwater law
      in the country and once again positions Maryland as an environmental
      leader and good steward of the bay.
      In late July, the Maryland Department of the Environment convened a
      meeting of developers, engineers, environmentalists, and state and
      local government representatives to discuss the new law and ways to
      implement it.

      The meeting was extremely positive and participants, while indicating
      that there will be challenges in implementing ESD, generally felt
      that it can and should be done.

      Prior to that meeting, representatives from more than 25 watershed
      associations, waterkeepers and statewide environmental organizations
      came together to agree on 11 core principles for implementation of
      this important stormwater legislation.

      These principles recommend substantially raising the standard for the
      volume of water that must be infiltrated on site to recharge
      aquifers, thereby reducing the runoff into creeks.

      The principles also propose specific limits for nitrogen and
      phosphorus, the two pollutants causing the most damage to our rivers
      and the bay.

      The South River Federation and other members of the Maryland
      Stormwater Consortium look forward to working with MDE, the counties
      and developers and engineers to achieve regulations that fully
      implement the Stormwater Act of 2007.

      We have an opportunity to make a real difference in limiting the
      damage that future development will cause to our streams and the bay.

      We have an opportunity to treat rain as the resource it is, rather
      than as a problem to be piped into our creeks.

      Kincey Potter is president of the South River Federation and a member
      of the Maryland Stormwater Consortium. A full description of
      stormwater principles is posted at

      Kincey Potter
      President, South River Federation
      (H) 410 280-6254 (C) 443 223-6392

      ''It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to
      succeed in doing what is necessary.''

      -- Winston Churchill

      35 Years of Environmental Service to Small Tropical Islands
      Island Resources Foundation Fone 202/265-9712
      1718 "P" St NW, # T-4 fax 202/232-0748
      Washington, DC 20036 Potter cell: 1-443-454-9044
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