CLEAR’s venerable, award-winning NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) Program is embarking on a five-year program to assist Connecticut communities in complying with the state’s revised “General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems,” or the MS4 permit. Stormwater runoff is a major source of flooding, erosion and water pollution in Connecticut’s waterways, and is expected to become even more of a problem as climate change progresses.
After much negotiation between CT DEEP, Connecticut municipalities and the environmental community, the MS4 underwent a significant expansion and enhancement this July. Eight new towns have been brought into the program, making a total of 121 (almost ¾ of all the municipalities in the state), and for the first time most state and federal institutions are also included. And, while the program remains organized according to its six “Minimum Control Measures,” there are important new aspects and requirements involving monitoring, maintenance of town properties, and “disconnecting” impervious areas through Low Impact Development (LID).
In the current economic environment Connecticut communities are struggling with a host of needs, and navigating the various aspects of the MS4 will be a challenge. In recognition of this, CT DEEP is funding NEMO to develop and implement a multifaceted support program that includes outreach, technical assistance, web tools and other resources. To list just a few:
MS4 “Circuit Rider”: a NEMO Extension Educator dedicated to the MS4 support program will conduct workshops, trainings and consultations with towns.
MS4 website: a website far above and beyond the typical regulation website is being developed, as an authoritative and detailed (but not wordy!) guide to MS4 implementation and home for special technical and mapping tools.
Webinar series: CLEAR’s webinar series will spin off a special NEMO/MS4 series highlighting different requirements of the regulation and approaches to meet them.
Mapping training: CLEAR’s Geospatial Training Program will provide training and tools to help communities meet the new mapping requirements of the permit.
Impervious Cover data: NEMO is working with an outside contractor to obtain high resolution impervious cover data, which will be an enormous asset to conducting the drainage area and impervious area analyses required in the permit.
The CLEAR Water Team (aka NEMO Team) is looking forward to this challenge, and in the process developing a whole new generation of stormwater outreach tools and resources. NEMO will be working with DEEP, regional Councils of Government, and both public and private sector organizations to tackle this issue so important to the health and welfare of the citizens of Connecticut.
Although UConn is in the midst of a pastoral setting in the quiet corner of northeast Connecticut, we sometimes have problems like a big city. This is because the buildings, roads, parking lots and sidewalks that make up the core of campus do not allow water to pass through into the ground. Instead, rainfall is directed into storm drains, and ends up heading towards either the Fenton River to the east, or Eagleville Brook to the west. All of the excess stormwater and pollutants that get picked up along the way cause problems with the aquatic life in these rivers. The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has identified Eagleville Brook as impaired. UConn Extension’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) has been involved in efforts to reduce the impacts of all of these impervious surfaces on Eagleville Brook. Green infrastructure practices like bioretention, green roofs, and pervious pavements have been installed around campus to help restore a more “natural” hydrologic balance. A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) has been established for the brook, with impervious cover as the “pollutant” (read more about this project at http://clear.uconn.edu/projects/tmdl). An interactive map tour with photos and videos is available online here.
With all of the changes taking place on campus, keeping track of the actual impacts of the green infrastructure implementation is not an easy task. Traditional water monitoring could be done, but this is very expensive and time consuming. Recently, UConn Extension Educator Michael Dietz at CLEAR created a unique system to estimate the benefits of the green infrastructure on campus. This tracking system uses real precipitation data from UConn, and estimates the amount of stormwater treated by each practice installed, given how big the practice is, when it was installed, and the condition of the practice. This allows for a running total of the volume of stormwater treated. Through June 2014, more than 42 MILLION gallons of stormwater have been treated! To put this in perspective, this is enough to fill more than 63 Olympic sized swimming pools!
This information is being used to track progress on the TMDL, along with other regulatory obligations between UConn and DEEP. Dietz plans to continue this tracking, along with other monitoring he and Jack Clausen perform on Eagleville Brook (real-time data available here).
Anyone who has been to the UConn campus in the last few years has likely noticed a lot of changes. Beautiful new and renovated buildings are remaking the campus. Along with those changes are a lot of more subtle changes that you might not notice – namely the integration of green infrastructure.
As discussed in previous posts, green infrastructure refers to using nature and natural processes to deal with infrastructure issues like stormwater. It includes such practices as bioretention/rain gardens, pervious pavements, and green roofs (among others). UConn has become a statewide and national leader in implementing these practices.
To highlight some of UConn’s efforts and demonstrate how to integrate these practices into an urbanized/urbanizing community, we created a virtual campus tour using Esri’s Story Maps tool in AcrGIS Online. (Story maps, by the way, are an extremely slick and easy way to bring your data or information to life in a geographic context. Definitely worth checking out.)