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Catching Raindrops to Keep Waterways Healthy

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PHOTO: A new guidebook will help project designers in Washington, D.C., incorporate features to minimize runoff, so it doesn't end up overburdening the stormwater-sewage system. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: A new guidebook will help project designers in Washington, D.C., incorporate features to minimize runoff, so it doesn't end up overburdening the stormwater-sewage system. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
November 19, 2012

WASHINGTON - If the rain falls on you, you have to keep it. At least most of it. That's the gist of the rules dealing with rainwater runoff in Washington, D.C.

Program manager Greg Hoffman at the Center for Watershed Protection in Baltimore explains that storm water picks up pollutants and sediment as it moves to, and through, storm drains and sewers, and there are rules on the books that require control of that pollution.

CWP just finished a guidebook to help project designers abide by the law in the simplest and most cost-effective way possible.

"The idea is, if you retain the storm water, you're getting rid of the pollutants that go with it."

Hoffman says to keep in mind that all those drains and sewers eventually connect with waterways. Rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavement are examples of ways to keep the water out of the storm drains.

There has been some grumbling about the pollution control rules adding to project costs, but sometimes there are financial incentives, and Hoffman says the long-term payoff has to be considered in terms of human and environmental health.

"It's good for Washington, D.C., in terms of the streams and rivers that flow through the community, but Washington, D.C., is also part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed."

The Center for Watershed Protection reports that the number-one cause of stream impairment is storm water runoff.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD