Arlington County and the City of Falls Church are asking local residents and businesses to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in their communities by reducing stormwater pollution.
Arlington County recently received $80,000 in matching funds from the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which Arlington will use to continue the second year of its StormwaterWiseLandscapes Program. The program provides cost-sharing grants to residents, businesses and homeowner associations to install landscape projects aimed at reducing water runoff and pollution.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Alexandria) said, “These grants help build local community efforts to clean the bay, leveraging resources and providing new and innovative approaches to fully restore the bay’s health.”
In Falls Church, the city has partnered with the EPA and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, a non-profit based in Richmond, that is focused on building consensus between groups to implement voluntary actions to improve water quality.
Nissa Dean, the Virginia Director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, said the Alliance received $500,000 to work with community watershed organizations to convince residents and commercial properties to install green infrastructure practices that reduce storm water pollution and storm water volume.
“If you treat stormwater on site,” Dean said, “rather than letting it flow into a ditch in a nearby waterway or into a pipe infrastructure that then takes it to a wastewater treatment plant, then you're alleviating the burden on the city or state infrastructure, you're lowering those costs, and you're, at the same time, helping them reach their pollution-reduction goals.”
The Alliance plans on developing a manual and a training program, along with standards and practices for green infrastructure that can be installed on residential and non-residential properties to be used by other local watershed organizations throughout Virginia and the bay watershed. The manual and training program will enable volunteers to conduct stormwater audits in their local community and determine the best practices to use at individual properties. The Alliance will also offer financial incentives for people to install green infrastructure on their property.
Falls Church and the Alliance also have a unique partnership with the EPA to develop a stormwater game as a tool to engage schoolchildren and adults in a community competition to have the most river-wise home. Residents will be able to virtually change the landscape in their yard to improve the water quality in neighborhood creeks.
"The idea behind the game will be that it will get kids and their parents outside,” Dean said, “and offer real-world challenges, such as going outside and taking a picture of native plants or invasive plants, storm drains, pollution in the creek, things like that, and then creatively thinking about or using the practices that they learn about in the game to actually improve those things in the real world.”
The University of Maryland is partnering with the Alliance to developing a mobile tracking tool for phones and computers so people can input stormwater improvements they make so they can be tracked.
In Arlington, environmental planner Aileen Winquist said there were six runoff reduction choices available: Green roofs, rain gardens, conservation landscaping, cisterns, replacing walkways or driveways with pervious surfaces, and an infiltration trench, which she described as “more of an underground water storage area.”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently awarded $9.2 million in grants through its bay stewardship fund to six states, local governments, non-profits and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded $7 million, with the U.S. Forest Service, Resource Conservation Service, and corporate sponsors Altria, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo and FedEx contributing the remainder.
This year, 25 percent of the applicants were awarded grants for priorities that are fairly specific, said Amanda Basso, program director with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
"The pooling of the funding is key,” Basso said. “No one of the partners that we're funding with could achieve the kind of results we're getting with this pooled funding stream. And we're able to put money together where EPA can fund the water quality piece of a project, but the Forest Service can fund the reforestation part of a project, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service might fund the technical assistance to farmers. So it's putting money together where it makes the most sense.”