Stormwater management is no longer a concern solely of large municipalities and quickly growing counties. Federal mandates to clean runoff are being implemented across the United States, and most developed countries have stormwater requirements. Bills such as the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2008, for example, requires all federal facilities at least 5000 ft2 in surface area to mitigate stormwater runoff using non-traditional techniques. Runoff has been documented to increase flooding, reducing ground water infiltration and shallow interflow. Pollutants in stormwater, such as nutrients, pathogens, and temperature, are all foci of watershed management plans, particularly those promulgated by EPA's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program.
In response, universities and colleges have developed programs – both research and academic/teaching – focused on stormwater management. The purpose of this issue of the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education is to highlight how universities and other applied research-oriented organizations are responding to the new demands of stormwater management.
The issue begins with a focus on alternative metrics that can be used to assess stormwater management. Most regulatory entities assess pollutant removal by implementing efficiency ratios (or percent of pollutants removed from stormwater). While this technique is simple to understand, many in the stormwater design community recognize that this methodology has become outdated (Strecker et al. 2001). Still, little change away from removal efficiencies has been observed among regulating authorities. Davis et al. present the fundamental pollutant removal unit processes employed by stormwater practices. They explain limits to how certain pollutants are mitigated and expectations associated with individual treatment practices. Battiata et al. present an alternative metric that focuses on annual volume reduction provided by stormwater management systems. Putting water into the ground or into the air to imitate what occurs naturally is clearly a design element that regulating authorities could require. Greenway explores an entirely different way of evaluating stormwater practices: assessing benthic health. She does this by presenting a few case studies from Australia.
Much of the most innovative stormwater management has occurred in locations that are relatively wet (like the Pacific Northwest, the East Coast), but many federal mandates apply to drier regions as well. Gautam et al. discuss the unique nature of stormwater management in arid and semi-arid regions and point out how blind implementation of stormwater management plans from wetter locations will not work for much of the Western U.S.
Selecting the appropriate practices to implement in a watershed or drainage catchment is a frequent challenge for designers and developers. Two articles, Young et al. and DeBusk et al., discuss practice selection for communities in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. Young et al. introduce an analytical heirarchy process (AHP) methodology that can be used to select practices without bias and test this method in Blacksburg, Virginia. DeBusk et al. examined several North Carolina watersheds to implement scores of practices. She and her colleagues identified ground-truthed limitations associated with land type and treatment need.
As stormwater practices are implemented, many stormwater managers are discovering the need to have them maintained. Because millions of public and private dollars are invested to treat stormwater, if practices are not maintained, much of this money may prove wasted. Erickson et al. investigate how communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin are keeping practices in working order and which practices appear to be the simplest (or conversely the most tedious) to maintain.
As its name, Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education (my emphasis), implies, stormwater management does offer a wealth of opportunity to educate students. Stormwater practices can be integrated into college campuses and academic curricula. Welker et al. discuss exactly how this was done at Villanova University. The stormwater management on that campus not only serves to clean water, but also helps beautify the campus and unite the university with the surrounding community, perhaps changing the local population's opinion of stormwater management practices.
Giacalone et al. surveyed public opinion in South Carolina regarding stormwater management needs and perceived costs. In what must be considered a very positive finding, communities that had active stormwater and watershed education efforts also had citizens who viewed the need for stormwater and watershed management favorably.
The final article in the issue serves as a reminder for why innovative measures are needed and why the public would care about stormwater management. Chagnon provides a detailed account of very wet period in Illinois and the flooding it caused. Often the drivers for innovation of any kind are dramatic events.
As guest editor for this special stormwater issue of the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education, I hope you enjoy this collection of articles from across the United States and Australia. The composite picture they paint of the future of stormwater management is very promising.