Skip to content

🗳️ "Adapting to Changing Stormwater Regulations"

Words on Water

Photo by Lance Grandahl / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Erin Zaske | Chief Development Officer | Aqualis
Category: 🗳️ Policy

Of Note: Free, Virtual Sustainable Water Compliance Summit (05/25/2021)

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:54] “Many people who are in or not in the water industry don't realize that both stormwater and wastewater systems are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The importance of these regulations is significant because polluted runoff is one of the greatest threats to clean water in the US. Nearly 600,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 13 million acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds are considered impaired. The EPA classifies stormwater systems as those that are publicly owned, discharged into waters of the US and are not part of a sewage treatment plant, such as a municipal separate storm sewer system, commonly referred to as an MS4. Any development disturbing one acre or more of land requires the implementation of stormwater control measures or SCMs, commonly known as best management practices, or BMPs. So if you think about a lot of the big box retailers or the office developments, many of those are greater than one acre, and all have their own stormwater systems that they're responsible for.”

[3:24] “Our estimate suggests that there are 3.5 million miles of storm sewers, 270 million storm drains and 2.5 million stormwater treatment assets across the US. […] The numbers are astounding, especially considering the trajectory that we're seeing of urban flooding, which will likely continue to trend upward as our older stormwater assets or infrastructure can't accommodate for the changing rainfall patterns and intensity. Climate change, including more frequent and intense storms and more extreme flooding events will also increase stormwater runoff. This increase can exacerbate existing or introduce new pollution problems.”

[4:38] “The EPA ensures municipalities and property owners work to reduce pollution and the amount of stormwater runoff as well as minimize unlawful discharges of raw sewage that can harm water quality. Stormwater and wastewater regulations are important because they protect our wetlands and aquatic ecosystems. They improve the quality of water bodies that receive the runoff, conserve our water resources and protect public health as well as serving as flood control.”

[6:14] “The first major US law to address water pollution was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. The EPA was established in 1970 after the 1960s environmental conservation boom, and the federal Water Pollution Control Act was reorganized and expanded in 1972, becoming what we know as the Clean Water Act. This established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the water of the US and regulating quality standards for surface waters. States and local governments may also have stormwater regulations that are more stringent than those imposed by the municipal government, but the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES […] regulate stormwater discharges from three potential sources, MS4s, construction activities and industrial activities. Recently, we have seen more changes in stormwater regulation as our understanding of stormwater and its importance are being emphasized.”

[7:58] “The leading cause for change is the undeniable need for improvements in infrastructure and water quality. The US is the wealthiest country in the world. Yet we ranked 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure. And earlier this year, in March, the American Society of Civil Engineers announced its 2021 Report Card for America's infrastructure, which included both wastewater and for the first time ever stormwater. The report was very disheartening for stormwater making its first appearance receiving a D and wastewater didn't do much better receiving a D+. […] The report stated that with few dedicated funding sources, complicated governance and ownership structures, expansive networks of aging assets, increasingly stringent water quality regulations and the climate change projections that we're seeing the expected performance of our stormwater systems is declining […] and we absolutely have to do something about this.”

[9:08] “Stormwater regulations need to advance significantly. And there's a sense of urgency that goes with it. Climate change has made our historical data irrelevant. It's increased pressure on the aging infrastructure, which was never designed to manage this amount of stormwater and the increased quantity of runoff is leading to more pollution. As cities and their populations continue to grow. The regulations have to combat the negative effects of the increased runoff to protect our waterways in our freshwater sources.”

[12:33] “Green infrastructure is a cost effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provide many community benefits. When rain falls in natural undeveloped areas, the water is absorbed and filtered by soil and plants. Stormwater in those instances, the runoff is cleaner and less of an issue as there aren't the pollutants that we see in the urban areas. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils and other elements and practices as well as the site's natural hydrology to restore some of the natural […] processes required to manage water and create healthier urban environments. There are many incentives for green infrastructure development and retrofit solutions. The EPA’s Municipal Handbook on green infrastructure identifies five ways municipalities have been incentivized for green infrastructure including stormwater fee discounts, development incentives, grants, rebates, and installation financing, as well as awards and recognition programs.”

[18:02] “Both municipalities and businesses should develop a proactive stormwater pollution prevention plan, and stay informed and open to new technologies that are existing in the space today. […] Aqualis will be hosting a Sustainable Water Compliance Summit, which the theme is implementing sustainable water management solutions for businesses and municipalities. We are going to have a panel that includes regulators from across the country, as well as industry leaders and people, leaders in the commercial space that are managing their water compliance program […] and this is on May 25, beginning at 11 o'clock am Eastern Time. It's free for all participants.”

Rating: 💧💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 21 min | 🗓️ 05/03/2021
✅ Time saved: 19 min

Additional Links:
WEF (Water Environment Federation)