In an exclusive interview with Public Works Senior Editor Michael Fielding during StormCon PBS&J Senior Associate Michael Bloom discusses the industry's fundamental shift in priorities.
1) You were one of six panelists who contemplated "The Future of Stormwater" in the opening session. What are the top three trends facing stormwater utilities?
More stringent requirements as a result of total maximum daily load (TMDL) implementation in permits; more stringent requirements due to revised regulations on new development and significant redevelopment; and increased monitoring and numeric benchmarks in permits.
2) To what extent are public agencies justified in recouping compliance costs from developers and property owners through fees and separate stormwater utilities?
All operators are resource-constrained. In most localities infrastructure and quality programs must compete against public safety -- police and fire -- and other services such as libraries.
This invariably leads to underfunded storm water programs - until the next flood or the next environmental enforcement action.
Stormwater user fees are a legal and appropriate way to raise revenue in most states; however, they are frequently perceived by some stakeholders as a "rain tax" rather than a user fee. This view is often used to defeat the implementation of drainage utility systems.
3) How close is the industry to being able to accurately measure the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs)?
The International Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Database and its associated monitoring and reporting guidance is the best resource available.
We still have more work to do, though, particularly when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of design variations. More importantly, given EPA's emphasis on watershed-based permitting, we have a ways to go in assessing watershed-scale responses to full-scale BMP implementation.
4) The buzz these days is about sustainability, low-impact development (LID), and BMPs. But obviously there still exists a need for traditional controls such as retention ponds, culverts, and other conveyance systems.
Moving forward, how do stormwater managers balance those two needs?
There's no consensus on what these words mean.
Some might say that LID means "develop your site so the post-development hydrograph equals or is less than the pre-development hydrograph at all storm sizes." That definition certainly allows you to use "traditional" conveyance system elements in combination with other design elements.
But it doesn't make sense to get boxed in with a particular term or design element. Each location needs to come up with appropriate hydrologic and quality performance standards for new development and implement them with the tools and infrastructure elements -- both low-impact and "traditional" -- that make sense for that location's unique challenges.
5) You reported on the National Research Council's (NRC) "Urban Stormwater Management" study during the panel session. What's the most important thing that public agencies need to take away from that report?
Although EPA requested the report, the panel that prepared the report didn't include any municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) operators.
The council found that the current EPA stormwater program doesn't work and recommended several changes. EPA is moving forward with revising the national stormwater regulations to implement many of the recommendations. Your stormwater permit is likely to become more stringent in the future as a result.