Stormwater runoff remains a hot topic for those involved in restoring and protecting the watershed’s streams and rivers.
As the population continues to grow each year and development increases, so do the roadways, rooftops and other impervious surfaces that send polluted runoff into nearby waterways.
New problems are stacked on top of historic urban areas built over centuries with infrastructure that was specifically designed to transport runoff as quickly as possible to nearby streams.
With all of these runoff issues, it seems a daunting task to achieve the goal of reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution by 2025, but we are on our way there.
Bay states and local governments are working toward reducing and preventing future stormwater pollution from entering local waterways by focusing mainly on large infrastructure improvements, restoring stream systems and employing new best management practices.
But what about the tens of thousands of private homeowners and small business properties? What about the stormwater coming from their properties?
Directly, mismanagement might flood a basement or cause minor property damage, but collectively, the damage done by the combined effect of all of these small sources of runoff can be dramatic. Now more than ever, homeowners are beginning to realize the impact of stormwater runoff and understand that what goes in the storm drains comes out in their favorite fishing and swimming spots. So more property owners are asking the question: “What can I do to reduce my runoff?”
Recently, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay launched its “Reduce Your Stormwater” website, stormwater.allianceforthebay.org, designed specifically to help homeowners and small businesses tackle stormwater-related issues on their property. The website offers a descriptive narrative, do-it-yourself instructions, pictures and videos for each of nine structural BMPs and five “habits to help;” as well as lots of links to other resources.
A “homeowner key” provides quick details about cost, maintenance, aesthetics and other benefits for each topic. This information helps homeowners decide if a specific BMP or action is right for their property and interests.
While the website has been accessed by thousands of users in the watershed since its launch — and promoted by multiple county and city officials to their residents — the Alliance viewed the site as a starting point for homeowners interested in addressing their stormwater.
With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Alliance is building on this popular website to better deliver assistance to homeowners and measure its impacts.
Over the next two years, the Alliance is targeting two high-priority watersheds in the Chesapeake Bay region: the Yellow Breeches Watershed in Pennsylvania and the Middle James River Watershed in Virginia. The project will unfold in four primary stages.
First, the Alliance will conduct community-based outreach campaigns in these watersheds to engage residents in implementing practices like rain gardens and BayScapes on private property. These outreach efforts will use a technique called social marketing to encourage homeowners to adopt stormwater reduction practices.
Second, the outreach campaign will direct people to use the Reduce Your Stormwater website as the platform for seeking assistance. Homeowners will have the ability to develop their own plans for a rain garden, BayScape or other practice; apply for installation funding; and follow up for reporting and monitoring. The success of this social marketing effort will be evaluated through the reporting of actions taken in response to the outreach.
Third, the Alliance will provide technical assistance and training for local conservation-oriented partners in the target watersheds to build capacity in these groups to support homeowners and promote the continued implementation of stormwater management practices. The Reduce Your Stormwater website will become an interactive resource for partner organizations.
Finally, the Alliance is designing and will deliver a share of the costs of residents installing rain gardens and BayScapes on their properties in the targeted watersheds.
The Yellow Breeches and Middle James River watersheds were chosen as the first targeted watersheds for the Reduce Your Stormwater project based on watershed development trends, local need, proximity to state capitals and the presence of existing partnerships. There are many watersheds that could be prime opportunities for this approach across the watershed.
Ultimately, the Alliance hopes that what it learns from the Reduce Your Stormwater project will provide confidence for transferring this approach to other communities and watersheds where residential runoff control is a priority. Many of the resources and tools developed in the project will immediately benefit any homeowner who might be interested in stormwater management, regardless of his or her location within or beyond the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
As spring unfolds and planting season begins, consider what you can do on your property to help reduce stormwater.
To get started, visit stormwater.allianceforthebay.org to get started, share the message and tools with others and check back later this year for great new tools and information.
Together, we can reduce the problems caused by polluted runoff and restore our local streams, rivers and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.