Against the flow

Here’s more on the watersheds issue, one of the things that’s been getting my attention in an increasing way lately. Emphasis, this time, on the practical picture.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) includes in a recent edition of its weekly news rundown a short account, here, of a study recommending watershed management reform. The study has to do particularly with land development & infrastructure in the urban context — storm runoff controls, in other words, rather than pollution per se. Development & infrastructure in urban context is especially relevant, of course, to the Chesapeake Bay’s problems.

From the NAHB article, the following rather dry, but easy to understand, 3-point synopsis of National Research Council findings as they relate to construction industry concerns, provided there along with links for further information on storm water matters.

The idea of regulating storm water to improve water quality was doomed from the start because so much urban development had already been constructed before the act was signed in 1972. The storm water systems in place were designed to control flooding, not improve water quality — two goals that are often in opposition. New construction, meanwhile, tends to have a more positive impact on water quality because it takes water quality needs into consideration.

More research is needed on the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) such as specially designed silt fences and other technologies. The council emphasized the importance of low-impact development techniques, including rain gardens and swales, as well as reducing impervious surfaces in new development.

Storm water controls should focus on the importance of reducing the volume of runoff and not just the chemicals that are in the water.

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