The Future is Now

Dec. 2, 2014
Year-ahead storm water & erosion control industry forecast

The GI Pendulum Gains Momentum

In the second decade of the 21st century, it is evident that the quest for a more sustainable approach to storm water management and urban water infrastructure is gaining momentum. In an era when the world faces a number of looming challenges—such as climate change, growing urban populations and the related rapid pace of urbanization and associated water stress—storm water is increasingly being seen as a resource rather than a nuisance that needs to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. The paradigm shift toward a more holistic, integrated, catchment-wide approach to storm water management has taken root. Green infrastructure (GI) has become synonymous with storm water management. 

There is a recognition now that water quantity and quality are inexorably linked. The adoption and implementation of GI approaches provide a means of reducing storm water runoff and polluted discharges into receiving environments while maintaining, or restoring to the maximum extent feasible, the predevelopment hydrology of the site, using site planning, design, construction and maintenance strategies: Prevent the rain from entering the drain quickly and you take away a lot of the pain.

For more than 25 years, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) has been a major funding mechanism for water infrastructure projects in the U.S. In fiscal year 2014, no less than 10% of the $1.45 billion in the fund was appropriated for the green project reserve. As we look forward to fiscal year 2015, although the requested amount for the CWSRF has decreased to $1.02 billion, the earmarked green project reserve will be 20%. This represents an almost 41% increase in potential funding for GI projects, at a time when some existing water infrastructure is coming to the end of its useful life. The GI pendulum has gathered momentum.

GI approaches are more decentralized, which will result in an increase in the interactions of multiple stakeholders, including public bureaucrats and managers, system designers, entrepreneurs, activists and the public, creating an even closer link between professional practice and community participation. This should stimulate continuous innovation and spur an expanded role for the private sector in technology development, systems maintenance, management and finance. 

Professor Bob Andoh, Chief Technology Officer, Hydro Intl.

Erosion Control Industry Thoughts

I anticipate that 2015 will bring many changes to the storm water and erosion control industry. Over the past few years, our industry, like many others, has been severely affected by the recession, but now, the economic factors are starting to change. Projects that previously had been postponed and projects that were delayed by severe weather earlier in 2014 now are creating a significant increased demand for materials. Coupled with increased demand is the impact of the rising costs of raw materials, employee wages, healthcare, transportation of materials (inbound and outbound) and aging equipment. The entire industry is bound to see costs increase.

Specification and regulation changes also will significantly affect the erosion control industry in 2015. ASTM is actively working on sediment control testing standards. The Erosion Control Technology Council is focusing on updating specifications for rolled erosion control products and turf reinforcement mats. Departments of transportation are updating and tightening specifications and the National Transportation Product Evaluation Program is implementing an audit program for erosion product manufacturers to ensure quality control measures. Combined, these efforts will raise the quality bar and guarantee regulatory standards are being met while bringing more control to the industry. 

Product development, new technologies and the implementation of lean manufacturing will be key to the successful, well-heeled companies of our industry. These companies will emerge as leaders and the “change of the guard.” A new day is dawning, and what was acceptable 25 years ago is no longer good enough.

A final change to note will be consolidation. Both from a distribution and manufacturing standpoint, our industry will become stronger and more compact through consolidation. It has been a rough road and it is not going to get any easier.

Diane Hitt, President, East Coast Erosion Blankets LLC

Storm Water: The Next Generation

This past year marked my 35th anniversary as a civil engineer. When I started my career, storm water was understood to be a problem associated with land development and thus the practice of storm water management was born. In the early 1980s, we worked with a different set of tools: SCS TR-55 tables and nomographs, and later computer models; detention basins, stage/storage/discharge curves and outlet structures; underground detention systems and vortex treatment units; and galleys, chambers, pipe and weirs. 

In the 1990s, storm water quality impacts were starting to be understood, largely led by the research initiatives coming from Chesapeake Bay watershed advocates. A new dimension to the storm water management challenge evolved, and policies were developed to improve water quality. Products entered the market to help ameliorate water quality impacts, and as designers, we embraced this evolution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s NPDES Phase II sealed the deal and leveled the playing field.

Up until this time, we understood storm water to be a disposable byproduct of development. Enter sustainability. Changes in land cover interrupt the natural water cycle—rainwater cannot permeate urban surfaces, so aquifers are depleted, pollution is washed downstream and increased flow rates cause flooding. Disrupt the water cycle, and you create a storm water problem that needs to be “managed” as a result.

So why do we need to disrupt the water cycle at all? Can’t a new, sustainable perspective on storm water management focus on how not to disrupt this natural cycle? Conceding that a development project creates a storm water problem that engineers must fix with detention basins, filter traps and the like can no longer be assumed as sufficiently addressing the real problem.

The newest versions of the LEED and SITES sustainability rating systems’ storm water credits have evolved into rainwater management credits that require a fresh, holistic perspective on understanding and managing development impact. GI solutions
that leverage nature-based solutions, such as landscapes with engineered solutions, are preferred. Systems must emulate natural processes that are adept at managing rainfall in an ecological setting.

It is a great time to be a storm water professional. The next generation of storm water management—rainwater management—is upon us. 

Steve Benz, P.E., LEED Fellow, Hon. ASLA, Partner & Director, Olin

Can We Meet Storm water Effluent Numbers?

The latest NPDES storm water permits are reflecting the EPA’s trend toward numeric standards for storm water discharge. This proposed EPA permit includes numeric effluent limitations for specific industrial discharges.

In California, the numeric effluent limitations were rescinded from the 2009 general NPDES permit for storm water discharge from construction sites; however, the numeric action levels (NALs) are still in effect. Exceedance of the average turbidity and pH range (250 ntu and 6.5 to 8.5 pH, respectively) trigger action. Although the exceedance of a NAL is not immediately considered a violation of the permit, not implementing the required action would be.

The latest California Industrial General NPDES Stormwater Permit (IGP) was adopted in April 2014 and will become effective July 1, 2015. This permit also includes instantaneous and annual NALs for typical storm water pollutants, including total suspended solids (100 and 400 mg/L) and oil and grease (15 and 125 mg/L), and annual NALs for pH (6.0 to 9.0), many metals, biological and chemical oxygen demand, and many other parameters.

Exceedance of a NAL triggers evaluation, revision of BMPs as necessary and reporting. Avoiding extra work by staying in compliance with NALs is most cost-effective. Existing facilities covered under the previous California IGP should carefully review their data to determine whether they are already in compliance with the NALs in the new permit. If your data indicate that your facility has exceeded the new NALs, do not wait to start your evaluation and BMP revisions, if necessary. If your facility may be subject to additional parameter monitoring, include that monitoring prior to the permit to determine whether you will be in compliance. The new permit includes timelines for implementing the evaluation and reporting requirements, but does not prohibit preventive measures such as early evaluation and monitoring to stay at a baseline compliance status.

These effluent discharge NALs apply to all projects and facilities covered under the permits. In addition, sites and facilities discharging to impaired water bodies with total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) also may be subject to numeric waste load allocations. Some permits now are including numeric discharge limitations for discharges to such water bodies. Even municipal NPDES storm water permits are turning toward numerical standards for discharges to water bodies with TMDLs.

The numbers are here to stay and they always seem to be getting more stringent. Stay informed and on top of the numbers and make sure you plan ahead to meet them. 

John Gleason, P.E., QSD, QSP, CPESC, ToR, Senior Project Manager, AECOM

Ohio: A Bellwether?

In Ohio, there are a number of trends being observed and anticipated for 2015, and similar trends can be expected in other parts of the nation. One of the largest is the anticipated ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court on the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s ability to implement a storm water management program and leverage a utility fee. This ruling will have statewide implications for all districts. 

One trend Ohio storm water professionals also are looking at is a possible increased recognition, by communities and project managers, of ecosystem preservation and restoration as mitigation for impervious surface generation.  

In addition, there has been a large shift to BMP maintenance. Until now, many have ignored the maintenance end of projects. More research into what works and what does not will be part of the new trend regarding BMPs and their maintenance requirements. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its next-generation permit requiring MS4s to update the storm water management plans that were originally developed in the early 2000s. In coordination with the new permit, Ohio storm water professionals are expecting to see increased audits and notice-of-violation letters issued based on the completion status of the audit deficiency corrections. Along with the new permit from Ohio EPA and updating storm water plans, there will be an increase in regulations—making them more stringent and requiring additional inspections and long-term maintenance. 

Of course, all this will occur with less money available to comply. Funding for communities is still an issue when implementing storm water management programs. Communities will be forced to implement storm water management fees for residents and businesses, possibly causing backlash on this new “tax.” Ohio storm water professionals also will see increased inspections and site visits by Ohio EPA and, in turn, local communities regulating storm water permits. With the new permit, there is now an increased linkage between TMDL recommendations and storm water management for communities and watersheds. This also will increase the focus on nutrient reductions in the state. We are expecting a need for training and believe that a renewed emphasis will be centered on that.

Harry Stark, MPA, CMS4S, Ohio Stormwater Assn.

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