Adopting Stormwater BMPs: Obstacles and Strategies


Developing a sustainable stormwater program that provides the multiple benefits offered by stormwater BMPs takes considerable time and planning. Incremental adoption is often unavoidable because of the obstacles commonly faced in undertaking such a large-scale transformation. While some policies are easily incorporated due to lower funding requirements or their ease of insertion into existing programs, other policies will prove challenging and time consuming. Several strategies have been used to successfully address common impediments in the development of a functional, successful stormwater management program. Furthermore, a slow implementation of policies and initiatives over time has proven to be positive, yielding a more complete and widespread acceptance of sustainable stormwater approaches.

Common Obstacles and Suggested Strategies


  • Securing continued financial support is essential in ensuring a long-term infrastructure program. Funding is needed to develop, amend, inform, and enforce new regulations. It is needed to educate all professionals involved in the planning and construction phases of projects about stormwater BMPs as well as incentives for implementation. Local governments often do not have the means necessary to carry out these necessary tasks and must therefore look elsewhere for funding support.
  • Municipalities can apply for federal grants, or to businesses, nonprofit groups, or charities for funding. They can hire a specialist to deliver a presentation suggesting steps and methods to applying/appealing to other entities, providing resources and contacts. Another option is to analyze the existing infrastructure status and determine the monetary impact of deterring infrastructure management. The budget can then be shifted accordingly.

Stakeholder Retention

  • The support of stakeholders is an essential component of policy implementation. Because stormwater BMPs are a new concept to a lot of areas, it is important to have a strong backing and influential persons to assist in spreading awareness and adoption. Stakeholders may easily become disinterested due to misunderstanding or not being regularly updated on water quality efforts.
  • A system should be established to consistently inform stakeholders about the status of the city's stormwater program. Stakeholders should be thoroughly versed on the long-term goals and the plans for obtaining them. Codes and regulations should be presented, as well as anticipated barriers to implementation.

Political Support

  • Political agendas may prevent any major regulations to be passed, especially around election time. Resistance can be unwavering and not worth the time or energy.
  • If support is not obtainable, attention can be turned to smaller policies that can be easily implemented to jump-start a program, providing support of future expansion.

Administrative Leadership

  • Having cooperation across the board can be difficult to achieve and manage. Government staff will need the full support of their supervisors in order to feel comfortable with deviating from their normal practices. In order for new efforts to be fully supported, departmental education and outreach should be spread across the board.
  • Informational sessions can be held to increase awareness. An interdepartmental planning committee could be established to plan educational efforts.

Policy Restrictions

  • Sometimes stormwater BMPs fall outside the parameters of established codes or accepted practices because they are new or different.
  • Municipalities can incorporate stormwater BMPs into their codes as a preferred method of stormwater management. This will set a precedent, and more communities will modify their codes as well.

Risk Management/Legal Liability

  • Professionals and organizations who partake in risk management assessments might think that sustainable stormwater management is a high-risk program, and avoid it due to the lack of precedents and the desire to mitigate liability.
  • Risk management should be conducted in a way that shows the large picture of the effects of stormwater management, or the lack thereof. Full cost accounting, including future replacement costs, loss of biodiversity, and social and community values should be considered. The more sustainable projects that are built, the more information will be spread, and officials will be more comfortable and willing to explore their options.

Technical Information and Training

  • There will be unfamiliarity with many stormwater BMPs and their designs. The process of developing and submitting plans for approval will also be foreign, as more codes and regulations are passed.
  • Introductory workshops can be held and manuals can be developed to explain designs and techniques, as well as an explanation of what soil types and vegetation would be appropriate for the local environment. Information on existing codes and ordinances should be provided, as well as consultations on incentives and ways to obtain funding.

Misunderstanding about Land Use Issues

  • It cannot be assumed that the general public or local officials fully understand the impact of their development decisions on their city's infrastructure, stormwater management, or water quality. Educating may take time and energy, but is necessary in achieving the cooperation needed.
  • Computer-generated visuals can be a helpful tool in demonstrating ways a community can grow and develop over time with the presence of stormwater BMPs. Forums are also a helpful way of disseminating information. In addition, research-based information as well as case-studies are reliable and advantageous to use.


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