Municipal Stormwater Manager

Attractive landscaping in this flow-through planter masks an unattractive dumpster area.
 
Implementation of sustainable stormwater best management practices (BMPs) can help you meet water quality and quantity goals, develop projects that provide community amenities, allow you to meet new and existing regulatory requirements, and open the door to funding opportunities. BMPs can supplement and enhance existing stormwater control structures to revive aging systems, reducing the need for traditional infrastructure and easing the burden of maintenance. These practices can be applied to any project site and fit every budget.

From your unique position as both administrator and implementer, with direct contact with a number of stakeholder groups, you are well-placed to encourage the implementation of stormwater best management practices.

Encouraging the shift towards greater BMP implementation brings about an ideological shift in conjunction with a programmatic and regulatory shift. Stormwater BMPs are driven by the idea of treating water as a resource, not as a waste product. This ideological shift can pave the way for adoption of a new aesthetic and a new approach to stormwater management.

What can you do to encourage the use of best management practices?

There are many ways you can use your position to encourage the use of stormwater BMPs. Some of these include partnerships, demonstration projects, incentives, and regulations. Each approach serves to create an environment that facilitates the use of sustainable stormwater BMPs in development projects.

Partnerships

Join forces with other departments or organizations to develop multi-functional projects or to accomplish larger programmatic goals (such as watershed protection or preservation of open space within the community). Benefits from such partnerships include:

  • Increased funding sources as departments pool resources to accomplish joint goals
  • Added expertise and knowledge to improve project design and implementation
  • Improved lines of communications between different departments may facilitate future collaboration and improve coordination

Curb cuts offer a compromise that maintains parking safety while allowing for stormwater treatment in landscaped areas.
 
Look for projects that allow you to partner with private organizations. Public-private partnerships can benefit all parties involved by increasing funding available for stormwater BMP projects and providing amenity to the local community.

One example of a successful public-private partnership is the collaboration between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and Alterra Coffee Roasters in the development of the Milwaukee River Flushing Station. Restoration of this site provided a social gathering area and interpretation station where community members could enjoy a casual cup of coffee while learning about on-site implementation of stormwater BMPs.

Demonstration Projects and Community Education

One of the biggest barriers to BMP implementation is uncertainty about whether they will actually work in a particular area. Demonstration projects can provide concrete examples of how BMPs can be implemented in the physical and regulatory environments specific to a particular area. These projects:

  • Provide a testing environment where different materials, designs, and implementation practices can be evaluated and modified to determine optimal design parameters
  • Can be used as guidelines for how much projects may cost
  • Provide an opportunity for monitoring to evaluate efficiency, cost, and long term operational needs
  • Can show how BMPs can be developed according to local regulations
  • Allow engineers and designers to come and "kick the tires," seeing for themselves that these project can and will function if developed properly
  • Serve to "set the bar higher" for private industry by refuting misconceptions that green technology is risky and ineffective

Education programs can be targeted towards any group involved with or impacted by stormwater management. Providing information about the benefits and potential applications of BMPs can increase support from public officials, engineers, designers, developers, and the local community.

  • Bringing information about stormwater best management practices to local officials can ease the transition to new regulatory systems and create a powerful ally in the shift towards greater BMP implementation.
  • Sustainable stormwater best management practices may include public education campaigns which encourage respect for the stormwater management system and inform the community of their impact on this valuable resource.
  • Developing support for specific programs or initiatives through public education campaigns can increase community buy-in and, perhaps, facilitate implementation. This is the case in Kansas City's "10,000 raingardens" project, where community members are encouraged to install raingardens on their properties to reduce the burden on the existing stormwater system.

Regulations and Incentives

Stormwater management is governed by federal, state, and local regulations. Your approach to these regulations, and the way in which information is disseminated, can present an environment where BMP implementation is encouraged. Some ways you can facilitate BMP implementation through the regulatory and incentive system include:

Concrete channels that funnel rainfall to a drywell double as seating areas to enhance the functionality of an urban courtyard.
 
  • Review federal requirements to see where BMP implementation is encouraged and rewarded. Make this information readily available to engineers and developers.
  • Streamline or modify existing permitting and development regulations to encourage the use of stormwater BMPs.
  • Offer incentives for green implementation through local regulations. Municipalities can offer developers financial benefits for implementing BMPs that meet certain criteria, such as on-site detention or infiltration.
  • Establish incentive systems that reward innovation and use of new materials or practices.
  • Set local regulations that mandate the use of "green" BMPs for all projects unless developers can show that such an approach is infeasible, in which case they would be granted a waiver (this approach is taken in Portland, Oregon).
  • Direct developers to funding that is available for "green" projects or demonstrations of new technologies and designs that wouldn't be available for standard engineering projects. Alternatively, provide tax breaks or other financial incentives as part of the regulatory system.
  • To supplement new regulations, provide assistance to developers to ease them through the transition. Some options include providing free review of installation designs before they are submitted for review. Make sure that pertinent and current information is available on your website and anyone in a public relations or communication role conveys a clear and consistent message.

Regardless of the methods used to encourage implementation, combine your efforts with a well thought out communication plan. Effective communication of ideas, policies, and supporting documentation will ease transitions to new systems and increase buy in from other groups. Be sure that your communication goes both ways - provide opportunities and channels for feedback from partners and constituents ensure that needs are met and questions are answered.

Next Steps

Take a look at some of the case studies to see examples of what is happening in other areas. Think about how you might be able to bring such changes to your own community. The frameworks for success page can give you the tools you need to establish a management framework to encourage BMP implementation. Additional information can be found in the resource links section as additional questions are raised during this exciting and dynamic process.

The following resources may be of particular interest:


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