Feb 11, 2010

The Road Ahead

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The past year has been an exciting albeit occasionally bumpy one for many industries, that of storm water being no exception. The critical question now is: What does 2010 have in store for our market?

Storm Water Solutions asked its well-rounded group of editorial advisory board members to help map out the road ahead, providing fresh perspective on today’s situation and the various economic, legislative and technology developments to come.

A Storm Water Management Awakening
Bob Andoh, Ph.D.
Chief Technology Officer, Hydro Intl.

I foresee a turning of the tide with regard to the adverse impacts of the global recession and resulting economic downturn. This change will be fueled mainly by construction-type activity facilitated by the stimulus funding. The effects of the stimulus funding will manifest more in 2010, compared with the slow start and pull-through in 2009, as construction projects emerge from the pipeline.

The earmarking of some 20% of the stimulus funding toward “green” infrastructure will provide the basis for increased momentum for green infrastructure. This represents a mega-trend, particularly when coupled with the general move toward a green economy and the need for carbon footprint reductions resulting from climate change initiatives.

In 2010, there will be an increased focus on whole life-cycle costs, energy efficiency and “cradle-to-grave” environmental impacts, which will invariably result in maintenance rising high on the agenda.

Furthermore, 2010 also will see an increasing number of storm water utilities being established to provide the institutional framework and basis for addressing the MS4 issues in compliance with storm water rules.

The increasing trend of public and community engagement and involvement with environmental-related projects will gain momentum, fueled by the growing Internet presence and the escalating uptake and use of social networks.

With regard to treatment methods and technology, I believe 2010 will be a year of awakening to the fact that water quantity and water quality are intimately linked and that effective storm water management starts with better management and control of flows.

As a result of this awakening, I believe there will be a shift toward what I call the “water quantity paradigm,” resulting from a heightened awareness of the need for more effective flow management and control and the need to mimic natural predevelopment hydrology and hydrogeological conditions. This, in turn, will result in an increasing shift and focus on infiltration-, storage- and flow control-related technologies for integrated storm water management.

Changes to Spur Growth
Shirley D. Morrow, CPESC, CISEC
President, ABC’s of BMP’s

First we have the current economy and reduction of both construction projects and funding for state and municipal inspectors for compliance enforcement. With that said, there is a current downturn in compliance in the industry. Development is being encouraged, and the last thing anyone is concerned about is the storm water permits and installation of best management practices (BMPs) to protect and treat storm water runoff.

Although, with the Phase II National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program entering into its second five-year cycle and the U.S. EPA and states performing audits of the current programs, I am seeing an upturn in mandated training and certification programs across the country—so the awareness is on the rise. With local training programs, I am seeing more small contractors and utility contractors like plumbers and electricians sitting in and learning about construction erosion and sediment control; this is exactly what should have happened 16 years ago.

We also have a new EPA federal regulation published on effluent limitations for construction sites. This will create new state and local regulations and permit programs that will need to meet or exceed these new regulations. I believe this will spur new growth in the storm water industry with new and advanced BMPs. In addition, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson published a press release [in early 2009] stating that compliance and enforcement of the Clean Water Act and improving water quality is a priority.

My prediction in 2010 is additional education, new regulations and permits and an increase in agency inspections and enforcement, which will spur the storm water industry to respond with more and better products that are cheaper and easier to use.

A Time for Transformation
Joseph G. Battiata, P.E.
Senior Water Resources Engineer, Center for Watershed Protection Inc.

The storm water market is in tremendous flux. Increasingly complex and in many cases redundant regulations are being driven by federal mandates. Total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) and TMDL implementation plans are being developed alongside state-level MS4 and construction general permits, with local regulatory implementation strategies trying to accommodate all of the above.

In an effort to regulate the cause of storm water impacts on the aquatic receiving systems, impervious cover, runoff volume and flow are being targeted as surrogate pollutants. For example, benthic impairments are deemed to be caused by stream channel erosion and sedimentation (in the absence of excessive construction or agricultural activity in the watershed). The cause of the channel erosion is excessive flow, which is caused by increased volume and the improved conveyance of storm water runoff, which is generated by impervious cover.

Right now the storm water industry seems to be paralyzed by the economic downturn and a lack of clarity in how the federally mandated permit programs will target solutions. What is clear is that the significant acreage of existing impervious cover, developed prior to any storm water rules in the urban areas, will continue to cause the types of impacts described earlier.

Developing cost-effective strategies to retrofit or otherwise manage the hydrologic and hydraulic response of these existing areas is just as important as regulating new development in order to achieve compliance on a watershed scale. This will require a creative approach.

The solutions to date have ranged from stream stabilization and restoration to the implementation of small-scale volume reduction and retrofit practices on new and redevelopment projects.

The storm water industry should be preparing to provide a scientific assessment of how numerous small-scale practices, such as underground infiltration galleries, proprietary filter systems, disconnection of impervious cover, rainwater harvesting, etc., can be implemented on both new and existing developed lands to achieve watershed scale benefits.

The regulatory community should be developing sustainable incentives to promote creative and innovative solutions now so that when the pace of development picks up, there are effective strategies and willing participants in place.

Smarter Site Planning & Solutions
Stephen M. Benz, P.E., LEED AP
Principal, Sasaki Sustainable Solutions and Sustainable Site Technical Advisory Group, U.S. Green Building Council

Today’s storm water market is about responding to a problem caused by development of land and how that development changes the interface between land and rainwater falling on the site. Products and solutions are available to allow designers to fix the problem created by the development itself, but little emphasis is currently placed on avoiding the problem that is created in the first place.

The industry is now looking ahead and challenging the idea that a storm water solution has to be added onto a project rather than integrated into the project from the beginning. Sustainable solutions will be fully integrated into projects and be more responsive to site-specific storm water issues than one-size-fits-all BMPs.

Low-impact development (LID) techniques will continue to emerge as important and meaningful solutions. In conventional land development, storm water management is about fixing a problem that the project itself creates. LID practices prevent the problems of storm water management by preventing the problem in the first place. Build less and you have less of a problem to fix.

Sustainability comes next. When water is recognized as a resource rather than a disposable byproduct of development, sustainable storm water solutions can enhance and enrich the environment and help restore function to sites rather than further degrade them.

Sustainable design solutions will recognize the predevelopment patterns of ecologic and water function and attempt to respect and restore these cycles. Sustainable practices respond to site water balances by managing rainwater volumes rather than peak rates of storm water flows alone.

California Construction Updates
John Gleason, P.E. CPESC
Owner, JCG Consulting

The California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a revised General NPDES Permit for storm water discharges associated with construction sites on Sept. 2, 2009. However, it won’t become effective until July 1, 2010. That may give the regulated community enough time to comply.

By the effective date, ongoing construction projects of one or more acres will need to submit project registration documents electronically. These include the notice of intent, storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) and risk assessment. The electronic documents will be made available publicly online through the state database.

The risk assessment required will take into account a sediment risk factor based on the uniform soil loss equation, as well as a receiving water risk factor based on discharge potential to affect certain at-risk water bodies. Construction projects will be required to collect samples from each discharge point during each rain event for turbidity and during concrete operations for pH. California beat the EPA in establishing numeric action levels and effluent limits for discharges from construction sites.

Action levels for turbidity and pH are 250 NTU and 6.5 to 8.5, respectively. New effluent levels have also been set at 500 NTU (turbidity) and 6 to 9 (pH). In addition, sites may be required to conduct receiving water sampling if effluent levels are exceeded. The exceedance of a numerical limit must be reported electronically to the public database.

The new permit also includes specific BMPs, more specific certification and training for SWPPP developers and practitioners, rain event action plans and annual reports.

Learn all the new requirements before July 1, 2010, by reviewing the new permit online at the Water Board website (www.swrcb.ca.gov).

Editor’s note: For more 2010 industry insight, turn to page 44 to read this issue’s Q&A featuring input from incoming SWS editorial advisory board members Craig Beatty and John Moll.

About the author

Caitlin Cunningham is managing editor of Storm Water Solutions. Cunningham can be reached at 847.391.1025 or by e-mail at [email protected].