SWS 2021 State of the Industry Report

Feb. 14, 2022
For the second year in a row, the majority of survey respondents said the year was 'average'

Every fall, Storm Water Solutions (SWS) reaches out to its audience to see how the year went. Through the survey, we hope to gain insight into how the industry fared over the year. Were there staffing challenges? Was business as strong as the year before? What resources did they find most valuable?

Continuing to Gauge COVID-19 Impacts

Typically, we ask the same questions year-over-year to ensure consistency and to build a broader understanding of how feelings and businesses change every year. But, in 2020, we added a few new questions due to COVID-19. To what degree did COVID-19 impact your business? If there was impact, what aspect of your business was impacted the most? Did your business lose money because of COVID-19? These were just some of the new questions we asked last year, and we asked them again in this year’s survey.

The pandemic is still occurring, and therefore we want to continue to gauge how it is impacting the storm water industry. However, in addition to those, we also added a few newer ones. For example: Did COVID-19 impact your business more in 2021 than 2020? Fortunately, 42.86%, the majority, said no. And more telling, 34.69% said there was no difference. 22.4% said yes, COVID-19 did impact them more in 2021 than 2020.

The Bigger Picture

Aside from gaining COVID-19 insight, we wanted to continue gauging how the industry fared outside of that. As for our usual questions, the broadest one asked how survey respondents would rate 2021 as a business year. The majority, 35.37%, said it was average. “Average” was also the majority answer in 2020. In 2020, we asked how survey respondents anticipated to rate 2021 — the majority, 43.17%, said average. So, based on these responses, the year went as planned for most. Looking ahead to 2022, the majority, 38.1%, anticipates the year to be “good,” while 35.37% expect to rate it an “average year.”

Weathering the Storms

Harry Stark, executive director of the Tinkers Creek Watershed Partners and The Ohio Stormwater Conference and director of public service and engineering for the City of Aurora, Ohio, said he anticipates 2022 to be much the same as 2021 — in that weather patterns are continuing to change.

Stark pointed to the uniqueness of 2020 with both COVID-19 and weather pattern changes. In Stark’s state of Ohio, his area saw both a 100-year storm and a 50-year storm along with massive flooding. While 2021 did not see events like that in Ohio, other parts of the country, and even world, did.

“You’re definitely seeing that shift in weather, and it’s not going to change for a while,” he said.

2021 saw a few historic weather events. In August, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever water shortage in Lake Mead, one of the Colorado River’s main reservoirs. The wildfire season was intense as well, as it was in 2020. As of writing this, Cal Fire saw 3,083,507 acres burned and 8,367 incidents, including the Caldor Fire, which impacted 221,835 acres alone. These numbers do not account for wildfires outside of those managed by Cal Fire.

Additionally, the 2021 hurricane season saw 21 named storms, as of press time, including Hurricane Ida, which landed as a category 4 hurricane in Louisiana, killing at least 29 people in Louisiana and three in Mississippi. Following its path to the Northeast, Ida brought massive rainfall — dropping more than a month’s amount of rain in the Northeast in one night, NBC news reported.

These are just some of the weather events that took place this year. Many more states and cities were impacted by severe weather.

Looking at Funding

Seth Brown, executive director of the National Municipal Stormwater Alliance anticipates 2022 to be as good or better than 2021. He said he expects growing awareness around storm water and all it impacts. He pointed to plastics in the environment, resiliency efforts and flooding. He also brought up the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021.

In the bill, $550 million is allocated for new spending, and of that amount, $55 billion is allocated to drinking water, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure funding. Specifically, for storm water, the bills call for $1.4 billion for the U.S. EPA Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program over the next five years; $25 million for the Stormwater Infrastructure Technology program to create five Stormwater Centers of Excellence; $50 million for storm water infrastructure planning and development and implementation grants and $5 million per year to the EPA to complete the Clean Watershed Needs survey biennially.

This funding comes at a time when survey respondents pointed out that funding and regulations will pose as two of the greatest challenges and most important topics in the next 24 months.

To gain a fuller picture of how 2021 went for the industry, peruse these pages. These results provide insight into how storm water and erosion control professionals are faring and where they think the industry might be heading.    

About the Author

Katie Johns

Katie Johns, editor-in-chief of Storm Water Solutions and Water Quality Products, graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Johns joined the Storm Water Solutions team in September 2019. Johns also helps plan the annual StormCon conference and co-hosts the Talking Under Water podcast. Prior to entering the B2B industry, she worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Sarasota, Florida, and a magazine assistant editor in the Chicago suburbs. She can be reached at [email protected].