Stormwater Management in Extreme Events

Dr. Bill Hunt’s talk at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh on August 9th focused on the historic flooding hurricanes NC has seen in recent years, and what that means for stormwater management. We all remember when 6 feet of water stood on I-40, making Wilmington was an island and closing 3200 roads statewide. Our highways were (in theory) designed for the 1/500 year storm event, but Florence was a 1/2000 year event in Wilmington.

An NCDOT staff member in the audience shared that they worked with NC Division of Emergency Management and the Navy (yes, the Navy) to ensure that Wilmington had adequate supplies. Looking forward, DOT is working with the National Weather Service and others to stress-test our highway system, as well as learning from Louisiana’s experience during Hurricane Katrina to study bridge span vulnerability (many bridges went out during Katrina due to wave action.)

So what does this mean for stormwater management using green infrastructure? Stormwater managers know that green infrastructure has been designed to effectively treat moderate-sized rain events. How can stormwater BMPs / SCMs safely convey or pass larger storms, while still meeting their treatment goals? Dr. Hunt said that we will probably need to design our SCMs to be a bit bigger and made out of more durable materials. Thinking more broadly about green infrastructure, he also emphasized the need for preserving lands that routinely floods as public amenities. Designing parks, ballfields, or urban agriculture areas that can survive being submerged and somewhat battered in storms will allow us to “live with water” better.

Dr. Hunt and others in the audience also emphasized the importance of breaking down our institutional and subject matter silos. Stormwater, transportation, and emergency managers–and developers–can learn from one another about how best to manage risk and maintain the resilience of the systems where we work, play and live.

How are you designing your SCMs and planning land use for extreme events? How are your partnerships with other managers evolving? Leave a comment below about what’s helping you solve these challenges we all face.

And That’s a Wrap! FY 2019 Highlights

Kids cleaning Enviroscape

We finished up our Outreach and Education for the Fiscal Year 2019- and what a year it has been!! We interacted with over 3,000 individuals in CWEP regions over the course of the previous ten months on all things stormwater. A total of 146 hours were spent administering, leading, or aiding in programs across the state! The age range of our audiences ranged from Pre-K-Adult for all events and programs. In addition, we reached our main goal of aiding in or leading a program for all 37 of our member communities throughout the year- meeting both Public Participation & Involvement and Public Outreach & Education NPDES MS4 Minimum Measures. While we reached all 37 communities, a total of 71 programs, events, and meetings took place with about 1-3 visits/member.

Focused educational themes included the water cycle, macroinvertebrates, litter/trash, pet waste, lawn waste, fertilizer/pesticides, household waste, and vehicle pollutants. Check out our program and service menu guide here to learn more about the services we can provide you!

Programs and events ranged from libraries, schools, farmer’s markets, festivals, fairs, workshops, summer camps, Boys and Girls Clubs, scout groups, Parks & Rec programs, YMCA’s, training high schools, and more! CWEP also had several meetings with our member representatives about future events and how CWEP can aid their communities going forward.

We can’t wait to see what 2019-2020 has in store for us! Check out some images from the fun we had this past year here! Also, keep checking back in for our Annual Report FY19 which will be published on our Public SharePoint archive site in the near future. Enjoy the rest of your summer and we will see you soon this fall!

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is an area of land where all water drains to a particular waterbody, usually a stream, river, or the ocean. Watersheds cover the entire land surface of the earth. Watersheds contain homes, neighborhoods, cities, forests, farmland, and more. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes and can even cross state lines.

The graphic above shows how water travels over a landscape and eventually forms streams and rivers. In a natural environment, this water would be pretty clean; however, when rain hits an impervious surface it creates stormwater runoff, which picks up pollutants and enters the nearest creek or stream. This creek or stream will join others to form larger streams, which join others to flow into larger rivers. Just like streams, smaller watersheds join together to form larger watersheds. That means any pollution that enters our stormwater can transported throughout an entire watershed.

All of us live in a watershed – let’s keep them clean! Use this EPA tool to Surf Your Watershed and find out more about how stormwater, runoff, and streams connect to form watersheds in your area.