Change appears to be in the air these days, especially when one considers current efforts to address stormwater runoff from urban and suburban areas.

Virginia is completing its new stormwater management regulation process. The EPA recently requested public comments on a proposed national stakeholder survey designed to provide information that will be used to strengthen national stormwater regulations.

Many nonprofits and local governments have been working to address stormwater pollution issues in their communities. Several creative urban conservation programs have been developed and are being implemented throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Over the last two years, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has been working with local partners to develop effective techniques and programs to reduce stormwater pollution in Reedy Creek, a small urban stream located entirely within the city of Richmond, VA.

The first step was to mobilize a small watershed organization-the Reedy Creek Coalition. The coalition recognized that combining the strengths and technical skills of a regional nonprofit with the local knowledge of committed watershed residents would provide the best opportunity for success.

Rather than focusing our conservation efforts on stormwater pollution effects, we are seeking to address the root causes of urban water pollution. Our approach is to work with individual homeowners and businesses within the watershed to identify specific stormwater problems and then to provide solutions, along with the resources and expertise necessary to address these community concerns.

The Alliance and Reedy Creek Coalition volunteers started this effort by developing and implementing a third party watershed protection audit for residential homeowners. During the audit, trained volunteers examine the property and gather information from the homeowner about landscape practices to assess potential sources of polluted runoff. The audit then yields a site-specific conservation plan for the homeowner.

Modeled after federal and state agricultural conservation programs, the conservation plans provide unbiased information about conservation practices and options for property owners to adopt that will reduce their environmental footprint. Local businesses will also be able to participate in the audit program in a future phase.

Community education and outreach is a core element of the Reedy Creek Watershed Protection Program.

Public schools offer opportunities to address multiple goals and audiences. Not only do conservation projects at these sites reduce pollution, but they serve as outdoor classrooms that teachers can use as a resource to teach students, and secondarily, their parents.

Lastly, school projects such as BayScapes and rain gardens can be strategically placed in highly visible areas to help educate an entire neighborhood.

Many other conservation elements will be incorporated into the watershed protection program.

The Alliance's volunteer water quality monitoring program-RiverTrends-will be used by community volunteers to monitor water conditions in Reedy Creek. Volunteers will collect streamflow and stormwater volume measurements throughout the program implementation-providing a direct measurement of runoff reduction as conservation practices are installed within the Reedy Creek watershed.

This program will not only result in reducing pollution to the James River and the Chesapeake Bay, but will help to create a sense of place for city residents and visitors.

We believe this will result in a greater awareness of individual decisions and increase efforts that will minimize our environmental footprint.

The Reedy Creek Watershed Protection Program is the result of a community collaboration that includes Virginia Commonwealth University, the Reedy Creek Coalition and many others.