rainwater

EPA and Muscatine, Iowa, Work Together Toward Green Development

By Marc Kingston

Muscatine meeting

EPA employees and contractors, along with community members, discuss green solutions for Muscatine at the April workshop

Muscatine, Iowa, is one of 51 communities across the country selected to participate in EPA’s Making a Visible Difference in Communities program, which focuses on building partnerships with community stakeholders to improve public health and the environment.

I worked with EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities and the city of Muscatine to arrange a Green and Complete Street Workshop in April 2016. Jonathan Smith, engineering manager of Tetra Tech’s stormwater services, served as facilitator.

We started with a tour to identify areas of Muscatine that are ripe for green development and sustainable practices. After the tour, we met with members of the community and city leaders who were interested in learning about green solutions, such as diverting rainwater from entering the sewers and allowing more of it to soak into the ground where it can provide moisture for plants.

Muscatine meeting

Jonathan Smith, Tetra Tech (EPA contractor), speaks with Muscatine community members

A number of technologies are available to reduce the impact of rainwater runoff. These include permeable pavement that allows precipitation to soak through into the ground, rain gardens, rain barrels, green roofs, and other green landscape features. New curb bump-outs were also discussed at the meeting. They help channel rainwater into rain gardens, where water collects and soaks into the ground.

The community is considering implementation of green infrastructure practices based on concepts provided during the workshop. EPA and the city realize that green infrastructure in the public right-of-ways will help divert rainwater from the sewers and help prevent sewer overflows.

Muscatine meeting

Muscatine community members share ideas with EPA employees and contractors

Another goal of the workshop is to create a more sustainable, pedestrian-friendly environment along the Mississippi Drive Corridor and other transportation corridors in Muscatine.

Together, we want to change the way rainwater is managed, make downtown Muscatine more beautiful, send less polluted runoff to neighbors downstream, and use less energy to treat water at the wastewater treatment plant.

The environmental projects in Muscatine will truly make a visible difference in the lives of Muscatine residents. And I look forward to continuing my work with the community, which complements the city’s interest in green solutions.

About the Author: Marc Kingston serves as a Making a Visible Difference facilitator at EPA Region 7. He also serves as a grant management specialist in the Region’s Office of Policy and Management. Marc has a degree in environmental studies from the University of Kansas.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Water you up to for Earth Day?

by Jennie Saxe

Recipients of $2.4 million in 2014 and 2015 Stormwater Stewardship Grants, with representatives from EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Prince George’s Co. (MD) Department of the Environment.

Recipients of $2.4 million in 2014 and 2015 Stormwater Stewardship Grants, with representatives from EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Prince George’s Co. (MD) Department of the Environment.

For anyone who is passionate about environmental protection, Earth Day is like the Super Bowl and the Final Four combined. This year is no exception: all month long, staff from EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Office have been out across the region talking with adults and children about the importance of environmental protection and sharing ways everyone can be part of a cleaner, greener future.

The choices you make every day, in and around your home, can make a difference. Maybe you’re interested in water conservation with WaterSense products or rainwater harvesting. Or possibly energy and money savings through the Energy Star program. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the Safer Choice-labeled products that are safer for waterways and your family.

This year, EPA is focusing attention on reducing food waste, and has made food recovery the theme for Earth Day 2016. EPA estimates that more food reaches landfills than any other single type of trash. Since so much went into producing that food – water, energy, fertilizer, transportation – consider purchasing only what you need, donating the food, or composting scraps. This handy guide can help you sustainably manage food in your home and your community. Sustainable food management has benefits beyond waste reduction and helping communities – these approaches help preserve water resources, too.

EPA has been sharing this information, and more, at local Earth Day events and schools throughout April. And we’re not done yet! On April 22, 2016, stop by the EPA tables at EarthFest on the Temple University Ambler Campus, outside of the EPA offices in Philadelphia, at Delaware State University’s Earth Day event, in Wilmington at the city’s Earth and Arbor Day festivities, or at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

If you miss the in-person Earth Day celebrations, you can join virtually by browsing EPA’s website to learn more about making Earth Day Every Day. Inspire family and friends with these environmental quotes. Check out a video on actions you can take to make a difference. Or check out EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Facebook page or Twitter account to stay connected all year long!

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Waterways, wetlands, and winter wonder

by Jennie Saxe

The Schuylkill Center’s Rain Yard.

The Schuylkill Center’s rain yard

It’s true: autumn is drawing to a close. But don’t let the thought of a deeper chill in the air keep you inside all winter long! There are still some great places that you can go to experience the outdoors and learn more about the waterways right here in the Philadelphia area.

In the hilly Roxborough section of the city, on the edge of the Schuylkill River, you’ll find The Schuylkill Center. A conservation and environmental education fixture for 50 years, The Schuylkill Center is a peaceful refuge in the middle of an urban area, with miles of hiking trails. In the center’s rain garden, you can simulate a rainy day by using a functional sculpture that pulls rainwater from the roof and directs it to different types of landcover – like asphalt, lawns, and meadows – to test the infiltration of stormwater runoff. If the cold air is just too much to handle, head inside to experience an art installation inspired by a pocket of marshy land in New Jersey’s Meadowlands. The natural cedar forest habitat of the area was destroyed, but it is evolving into a unique ecosystem, ringed by shopping centers with a world-famous skyline as its backdrop.

A view across the impoundment at America's First Urban Refuge.

A view across the impoundment at America’s First Urban Refuge

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is another great waterside recreation spot for hikers, bikers, and dog-walkers. The tidal marshes and native plants at America’s First Urban Refuge are critical habitat for birds, fish, turtles, and more. The trail that circles the 145-acre impoundment offers many opportunities to spot flora and fauna in this rich habitat. The refuge is open year-round; even in December you’re likely to spot a variety of wildlife, while “birds” of a different kind take off from the airport, just a stone’s throw away.

And in the heart of Center City Philadelphia, take a stroll through Sister Cities Park. The design inspiration for this park came from the nearby Wissahickon Valley. Children and adults alike can climb a trail snaking along a miniature stream that is planted with native species. The park’s café is topped with a green roof that helps cool the building and soaks up rainwater.

Grab your gloves and lace up your boots – a winter wonderland of woods, wetlands, and waterways awaits!

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs. The gallery show, Hackensack Dreaming, will be at The Schuylkill Center until December 19.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green Infrastructure Helping to Transform Neighborhoods in Cleveland and Across the Nation

By Alisha Goldstein

By Alisha Goldstein

Every community wants clean water. And most communities would like more green space that allows residents to enjoy the outdoors and makes neighborhoods more attractive. Green infrastructure – a natural approach to managing rainwater with trees, rain gardens, porous pavements, and other elements – can help meet both these goals. It protects water quality while also beautifying streets, parking lots, and plazas, which attracts residents, visitors, and businesses.

This week, we are releasing a new report, Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure, that can help communities develop a vision and a plan for green infrastructure that can transform their neighborhoods and bring multiple benefits. It can be useful to local governments, water utilities, sewer districts, nonprofits, neighborhood groups, and others interested in innovative approaches to managing stormwater to reduce flooding and bring other environmental, public health, social, and economic benefits.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The City of Tucson Goes Gray

On September 23, 2008 I was touring the Upper Santa Cruz River with Amy McCoy of the Sonoran Institute as my watershed tour guide. The trip was awesome; I never knew that the southeast corner of Arizona was so beautiful.

Towards the end of our day trip Amy was anxious to get back to Tucson to attend an important City Council meeting, I didn’t know it until later that it was the vote on the Grey Water Ordinance that Amy was trying to make it to. The Sonoran Institute, using EPA Targeted Watershed Grant funds, helped to put together the ordinances for the City Council vote.

Because there’s so little surface water in the Tucson area, the city’s major water source has always been groundwater. The Grey Water Ordinance is aimed at reducing the use of scarce drinking water to irrigate desert landscapes. The city estimates that 45 percent of water use is for landscaping, and using rainwater and gray water would greatly reduce this.

image of green rain barrell under downspoutThe ordinance requires rainwater harvesting plans and capturing systems for any new commercial building built after June 1, 2010. The Ordinance requires that new homes built after that date be plumbed for gray water irrigation systems. This means having a drain for sinks, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines separate from drains for all other plumbing, to allow for future installation of a gray water system.

A key factor contributing to the success of this ordinance was the involvement from the entire community, from plumbers and landscapers to the Friends of the Santa Cruz River, they all added their support for the ordinances success. In addition to the community support, an EPA grant helped finance some of the work towards creating the ordinance language.

The City of Tucson was selected for a Pacific Southwest Regional Environmental Award and on the day of the awards ceremony, I had no idea who was coming to accept the award, but had heard that Councilman Rodney Glassman was coming. He was the driving force behind the ordinances, but I had no idea what he looked like. Well, Rodney is about 6’8”, and super energetic, really hard to miss. Once we connected it was great to sit and chat with him, he is very passionate about the ordinances, Tucson, and Arizona. Way to go Councilman Rodney Glassman and the City of Tucson!

About the author: Jared Vollmer works in the Watersheds Office at the EPA, Region 9 office. His work is primarily with the State of Arizona, Department of Environmental Quality, on reducing nonpoint source pollution in Arizona’s impaired watersheds. In addition, Jared works directly with the Sonoran Institute, a recipient of EPA’s Targeted Watershed Grant, located in Tucson in the Santa Cruz Watershed.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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