This feature originally appeared in the Storm Water Solutions December 2019 issue as "2019: A 'Good' Year for Industry"
Diane Smith, the president of East Coast Erosion Control Blankets LLC, recently attended several regional trade shows and noticed storm water management was one of the main topics being addressed.
“It’s just the hot topic right now because of all the storms we’ve had,” she said. “People are looking for solutions.”
Across the storm water and erosion control industries, storms in 2019 proved to be challenging. Despite that, industry professionals who partook in this year’s SWS State of the Industry survey said 2019 was just as good a year as 2018 and expect 2020 to be better.
"Good storm water management and erosion control management of a site really leads to a higher quality of life in a community, so that’s pretty relevant, and our ability as an industry to not only meet codes, but to do this in a way that is making a very livable community I think is important,” said Scott Barbour, CEO and president of Advanced Drainage Systems.
Additionally, 52% of respondents said they would rate the health of their company as “good,” followed by 22% saying they would rate it “very good.” Keith Walker, the general manager of AP/M Permaform, noted an increase in municipalities, counties and states taking steps to manage storm water.
Heading into 2020, storm water management and flood control will be at the forefront of many professionals' minds, but other services are becoming more prevalent.
Up & Coming Services
When asked which services companies currently use, and plan to use in the next 24 months, the majority of responders said BMPs and erosion control.
Walker said in 2012, the industry worked on 19,000 projects related to erosion control. In 2019, that number jumped to 73,000. Similarly, Smith said a better understanding has evolved as to how erosion control practices can provide a green source for projects.
“I’ve started to see some new processes come into the industry, and some people are taking products that were used for one application and making alternative usage out of them, such as waddles and other sediment devices,” she said.
Barbour said in addition to BMPs and erosion control practices, he thinks water quality will become more important in the coming years.
“That capability to design, apply and deliver solutions that ensure that quality of storm water that’s reintroduced back into the watershed is of high quality and meets all the codes, I think that’s pretty darn important,” he said.
Along with the increased frequency and intensity of storms, the storm water industry faces other challenges, such as funding and staffing. Those who took the survey expect funding to continue to be a challenge for at least the next two years. The majority of responses, 55.61%, said they expect an increase in projected budget change.
Keith said though the U.S. EPA is good about awarding grants, the problem comes with the increase in projects. More municipalities are implementing storm water usage fees to collect for projects. With those projects, staffing can become a challenge.
“You have to design work with the right processes and technology so that people can get their jobs done in a safe and desired manner and really want to stay with you for the long haul,” Barbour said.
But those that have been hauling for multiple decades are beginning to leave the industry, which can result in a knowledge gap. Besides trade shows and webinars, companies are looking at ways to bridge the generational gap, whether that is having retired professionals return as guest speakers or hosting meetings to ensure information is passed down.
Overall, the survey results show a positive outlook for the current and future state of the industry. As best management practices and green infrastructure are more steadily implemented, the industry is sure to evolve right in front of us. The next few pages contain some of the results from the SWS annual state of the industry survey that was taken by more than 60 industry professionals.