For the past couple of years, there has been a significant push within the storm water sector to utilize natural solutions in management, treatment, monitoring and erosion control efforts. Simultaneously, engineered solutions have been developing rapidly in terms of the diversity and quality of options available.
Rather than utilize one group of tools and techniques exclusively, industry professionals would be wise to draw from both when planning for and working on their new projects, redevelopment sites and retrofits.
Fusing the benefits of the natural world with man’s well-researched and -crafted technologies promotes projects’ adherence to regulatory requirements and maximizes receiving water protection. You’ll note this trend among SWS’ 2009 Top Storm Water Projects, which are profiled in this issue and on www.estormwater.com.
When it comes to addressing common industry problems—ranging from flood control and sewer overflows to sediment removal and slope stabilization—the use of natural solutions generally is still considered an alternative approach.
It is no surprise, though, that open-space protection programs, vegetated swales, soil engineering practices and the like are becoming more commonplace in the public and private sectors. These environmentally friendly remedies are best known for the aesthetic value, long-term cost savings and regulatory credits they can bring to the table.
More traditional solutions—retention/detention chambers, filters and erosion control blankets, for example—have proved in many instances over time to be reliable and effective answers to questions pertaining to storm water quantity and quality.
Manufacturers and designers today are making production processes and end products more sustainable than ever, and each manmade system contributes unique benefits to its project—be it space savings, durability or minimal maintenance requirements. Furthermore, standards and regulations—notoriously lacking or conflicting industrywide—continue to progress, receiving a recent boost with the establishment of the Stormwater Equipment Manufacturers Assn.
No single industry tool or technique, or its overarching group, for that matter, offers a one-size-fits-all solution. Both natural and manufactured systems are vital ingredients in the recipe for project success. Play up the benefits of solutions within each group, bringing the best of both worlds to ongoing and future projects by allowing nature and manmade technologies to work hand in hand: Integration is key.