When it comes to the world of water quality, stormwater seems to be on the minds of a lot of people these days. Talking about how to address a long-overlooked source of pollution for most of our rivers, is overdue, and a good thing for the Chesapeake Bay.
From Newport News to Charlottesville, VA, throughout Maryland and in Pennsylvania boroughs and cities like Lancaster, local governments are discussing programs that require paying a new fee to reduce this source of pollution. And there is plenty of resistance.
Cries of “no rain tax” can be heard at community meetings across the watershed, underscoring a fundamental lack of understanding of what many of these programs will do, and a fear from homeowners, churches, and others of being forced to bear the burden.
The truth is, for decades we have all gotten a free ride. We keep creating more and more roofs, parking lots and roads that send floods to erode our local streams every time it rains.
This was always a problem, but now communities are facing the need to pay for fixing problems that have piled up from the past while trying to prevent more problems from happening.
One thing about stormwater is that it comes from everywhere: the convenient roads we use each day, the place we park to shop or go to church, our driveways and the roof that keeps us dry. We are all part of the problem, but the beauty is, we can all be part of the solution.
Although there are many varieties of stormwater fee or utility programs being set up by local governments, most of them will provide a way to reduce the fee by taking action at home or at work. And, many of the actions that we can take are also reasonably simple, inexpensive and green.
To help, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has launched a “Reduce Your Stormwater” website
designed specifically as a resource for homeowners and small businesses interested in tackling stormwater-related issues on their property. The website offers information on best management practices and also suggests simple changes in habits that can help protect local water quality and create “RiverWise Communities.”
The website offers a descriptive narrative, do-it-yourself instructions, pictures and videos for each of the nine “structural BMPs” and five “habits to help,” as well as links to other resources. A “homeowner key” provides quick details about cost, maintenance, and aesthetics and other benefits for each topic. This information helps homeowners decide if the BMP or action is right for their property and interests.
Actions include tree planting, buffers, rain gardens, rain barrels, pervious pavers, native meadows, green roofs, downspout disconnects and conservation landscaping. Winter de-icing, vehicle maintenance, pet waste, lawn and garden care, and not dumping into storm drains make up the list of habits to help.
Users of the Reduce Your Stormwater website can share the easy-to-use information with their family and friends through social media outlets tied directly to the site. Users can also contact Alliance staff and suggest useful resources or provide other general feedback.
Up to this point, we have received lots of very constructive ideas and positive feedback. Over the coming year, we will be adding additional practices and updating resources, including a helpful “glossary of stormwater terms.”
Visit the Reduce Your Stormwater website and let us know what you think.
Cities and communities have many different stormwater issues to address and the work of individual homeowners will not solve them all. The Alliance has been demonstrating what communities can do through homeowner pilot projects in all the states. Thousands of individual homes and properties taking action can have a significant effect across the watershed.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay believes that the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and local streams over the long term will depend on broad-based citizen stewardship. We hope the Reduce Your Stormwater website will be a catalyst for each of us to do our part — and maybe save a little money with a reduced stormwater fee in the process.
Together, we can get the job done!
Al Todd is executive director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Drew Siglin is a project coordinator in its Pennsylvania Office and the lead developer of the website.