Storm Water

Go With the Flow—Green Infrastructure in Your Neighborhood

By Chris Kloss

Ten years ago, we didn’t see much green infrastructure for water resources around our neighborhoods. It was more of a novelty than a focused approach to sustainable development and construction. A few cities started using and experimenting with green infrastructure techniques such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and bioswales which are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The green was a complement to the gray infrastructure, the established system of underground tunnels and sewers. Together, green and gray infrastructure provided a holistic approach to manage stormwater for cleaner water.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects booklet coverAs the word spread about the early successes of these communities, a growing cadre of public works pioneers joined the movement to apply its principles and techniques to managing their water resources. EPA joined in their discussions, providing support to these pioneers through our technical assistance program. Today, EPA is releasing a summary report of the results from this program that we hope leads to even greater growth in green infrastructure.

Tools, Strategies and Lessons Learned from EPA Green Infrastructure Assistance Projects 

Many of the green infrastructure thinking and practices we see today are not new. Gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement were standard practices for harnessing and managing water hundreds of years ago. They were old-time technology that let water do what it naturally does —seep back into the earth where it can flow back naturally to streams and rivers, replenish groundwater, or be absorbed by plants and trees.

Communities are now relearning these techniques, and green infrastructure is working for communities across the urban spectrum, from smaller cities like Clarksville, Georgia to midsized, midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Wisconsin and large metropolitan regions like Los Angeles, California.

The summary document outlines how these and other community green infrastructure projects are successful. It also highlights benefits, offering examples for city managers to think creatively about how they can design their communities for better health, abundant water resources and improved quality of life.

We can all be part of better design for our communities. It just takes a different way of looking at things. When I’m out with my kids, I talk about how when it rains the water runs off streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces and flows down the stormwater drains into the sewer systems where it can’t be used for anything else. Now armed with the information, they’re always on the lookout for the missed opportunities in our neighborhood for letting the water go where it wants to, where it can do the most good for the watershed where they live.

I hope this report contributes to a movement where green infrastructure becomes standard practice. Every time we set out to design or build, repair or remodel our water systems let’s remember to think green infrastructure and let water do what it naturally does.

Learn more at www.epa.gov/greeninfrastructure and check out the 2016 Green Infrastructure Webcast Series for in-depth presentations throughout the year.

About the Author: Chris Kloss is Acting Chief of the Municipal Branch in EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management. The branch oversees the wet-weather permitting programs (stormwater, combined sewer systems, and sanitary sewer systems) and the green infrastructure program. Chris has nearly 20 years of experience in the clean water field including time in the private and nonprofit sectors prior to joining EPA.

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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On this Campus, the Rain Works

By Madeleine Raley

As the intern for the EPA’s Office of Water, I sit in on weekly communications meetings with the rest of the staff. One week in March we were discussing our communication strategy for Earth Day. It was decided that we would announce the winners of the third annual Campus Rainworks Challenge, a design competition to engage college and university students in reinventing water infrastructure. The winning designs proposed innovative additions to their respective campuses that would reduce storm water impacts while providing educational and recreational opportunities.

When the winners of the competition were announced in the meeting, you can imagine the feeling of pride I felt when I heard that my very own school, the University of Maryland, was a first place winner for the demonstration project category! So, on Earth Day, April 22, I got to stand on the steps of Memorial Chapel and listen to Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water, award my fellow students and teachers with this prestigious award.

The project, titled “Historic Chapel Site: Meadows, Meanders and Meditation” includes a 7-acre re-design of the area next to the campus chapel that captures and treats storm water from the adjacent parking lots and rooftops. Replacing storm pipes and traditional lawn cover, they would implement meadow landscapes that include bio retention, bios wales and rain gardens to treat storm water in a more natural, on-site way.

NewUMD

Photos from the student report

Photos from the student report

As a student, I walk the pathway to class on the field just below the proposed site. The erosion from storm water flowing from uphill parking lots and sidewalks cuts a clear and visible pathway, descending through the athletic fields. It leaves behind a brown trail through what should be green grass. When I learned of the project’s location, I knew exactly where and why they proposed to build it. The erosion is not a sight you can miss.

The plan provides a habitat for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and beneficial insect species such as ladybugs. It also includes an outdoor classroom and contemplative landscape for visitors and the university community. The faculty and students of University of Maryland, including me, are thankful this is an award that recognizes and also helps to enhance campus’s green infrastructure.

About the author: Madeleine Raley was an intern for the Office of Water communications team. She is a senior Government and Politics Major and Sustainability Minor at the University of Maryland and is expecting to graduate in May.

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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Rain Barrel Workshop Provides Educational Fun

By Kevin Kubik

Painted Rain Barrel

Painted Rain Barrel

My wife and I attended a rain barrel workshop in Eatontown, NJ.  The workshop was on teaching people about water conservation and reducing storm water runoff in our communities and making rain barrels. The best part of the workshop was that they gave us everything we needed to make our own rain barrel including the barrel, a spigot and all the fittings.

It was a lot of fun hearing about the program and making the rain barrel. Special instructions were given on how to connect two or more rain barrels in a series to make greater use of big rain events, what to water with the collected water (lawn and garden watering) and what to avoid (consumption). Everyone was also shown a couple of ways to avoiding mosquito breeding in the rain barrel.

I was so impressed with the presentation that I asked the instructor, Sara Mellor, if she could come to our next divisional “All Hands” meeting to give us a short presentation. She even gave us our own rain barrel that we will use in our Edison rain garden.

Rain Barrel Class

Rain Barrel Class

The workshop was provided by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, Water Conservation Program, which is a collaborative initiative between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection via funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The link to the rain barrel program is http://water.rutgers.edu/Stormwater_Management/rainbarrels.html. Check it out.

Every year, as part of “Rutgers Day,” a contest is held for the best painted rain barrel. There’s even a video on how to paint a rain barrel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVtLTkGO3zs&feature=youtu.be.

About the Author: Kevin Kubik is the region’s Deputy Director for the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center. He has worked as a chemist for the region for more than 31 years in the laboratory and in the quality assurance program.

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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Campus RainWorks Challenge Competition

By Nancy Stoner

Last October I visited the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a competition for college and university students throughout the country and the world to design environmentally friendly homes. The Solar Decathlon is a chance for students and faculty from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to collaborate on visionary and inventive ways to build comfortable, aesthetically pleasing houses that have a lower environmental footprint by utilizing energy efficiency, renewable energy, water efficiency approaches, and recycled building materials in home design.

I was especially inspired by last year’s winning home from the University of Maryland, which also included green infrastructure and rainwater capture to manage stormwater on site and improve water quality. College students are the designers, builders and policy-makers of our future, and I wanted to find a way to capitalize on their creativity to provide innovations in the use of green infrastructure for integrated water management. That is why I’m proud to announce that EPA is starting the new Campus RainWorks Challenge this year.

EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge is a design competition open to colleges and universities to compete to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management. This competition will help raise awareness of green design and planning approaches among students, faculty and staff, and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure principles and design. Effective green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems.

In this challenge, student teams, working with a faculty advisor, will submit design plans for a proposed green infrastructure project for their campus. For this first year’s competition, winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013, and winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 – $2,500, as well as $8,000 – $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure. To participate, teams must register by October 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14.

The Campus RainWorks Challenge will provide a great opportunity for students to apply clever, cutting-edge approaches to stormwater management, while also encouraging the use of green infrastructure projects on college and university campuses throughout the country. I am really looking forward to seeing the results of this competition in its first year and for many years to come.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water

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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How “green” Is Your Garden?

Rain GardenLike gardening?  Interested in attracting birds and butterflies?  Well, you can do all of this and help prevent stormwater from entering local streams.  By creating a rain garden, you can direct water from your downspouts to your garden and reduce your own water use as a bonus!
A rain garden is an attractive landscaped area with native plants that don’t mind a summer rain.  The rain garden is designed to naturally collect water that runs off your roof, driveway and other paved areas.  It is a sustainable and economic way of dealing with rainfall as nature intended.  Also, a rain garden slows down and reduces the volume of rainfall runoff before it enters the stormwater system. 
I’m inviting you to join the Mid-Atlantic National Estuary Program in their campaign, Rain Gardens for the Bays!  This unique campaign works closely with EPA Region 3, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Center for the Delaware Inland Bays, Maryland Coastal Bays, DE Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and other organizations, to green our neighborhoods and protect our streams and bays. 
By installing a rain garden, you are not only keeping rainwater on your property but you are saving time by lowering landscaping maintenance and doing your part to protect the environment at the same time.
Want double the water saving benefits? Connect a rain barrel to your downspout and use the collected water to keep your rain garden and other landscaping green and attractive to birds and bees.
For more information on how to create your very own rain garden visit Rain Gardens for the Bays

Have you installed a rain garden?  If so, tell us about your experience and register your rain garden here. Haven’t installed one yet?  Tell us why not, and if you would consider creating your very own rain garden.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.