Wx and the City
Yesterday, the Potomac Conservancy released a report (PDF) on the health of the Potomac River, in which it gave the national river a whopping D+ rating. The main culprit to this near-failing grade? Stormwater runoff.
In September, I described what happens to D.C. rainfall when it hits pavement. More likely than not, it becomes stormwater runoff -- rainwater or snowmelt that flows over impervious (non-porous) surfaces, picks up pollutants from the streets, enters storm drains, potentially mixes with raw sewage, and eventually flows straight into our local waterways.
D.C. Water and Sewer Authority is required to reduce runoff and improve local water quality. The agency recently announced an Impervious Surface Area billing program that will charge a monthly fee to all properties in the District based on how much stormwater runs off of each property: more impervious surface = more runoff = higher charge. The program will begin in 2009. D.C. WASA is also building three large underground storage tunnels, which will collect excess stormwater during heavy rain events for treatment at a later time.
With rain imminent tomorrow, I'd like to encourage you to watch stormwater runoff in action. Here's an exercise I like to do to remind myself of the impact of urban rainfall on water quality. Go outside to your nearest sidewalk during your lunch break with your rain jacket or umbrella in hand. Take a good look up at the beautiful nimbus clouds, dripping their coalescent droplets onto the city below. Appreciate the rain. Then, look down at the street in front of your feet, and watch what happens to those raindrops when they are not infiltrated into soil or absorbed by vegetation, but rather accumulate by the millions and flow into the nearest storm drain.
What pollutants are the raindrops carrying into your local stream or river? Do they warm up from the heat-absorbing pavement over which they travel? Will they enter the nearby reservoir and become your drinking water? What if there were more parks, forests, gardens, and green roofs to absorb them, or what if they landed on permeable pavement instead? The possibilities for runoff reduction are endless.
Here are 10 things you can do (PDF) individually to help reduce runoff and improve the state of our national river, courtesy of Potomac Conservancy.
More related news headlines: