WEF Receives Grant To Promote Stormwater Innovation

Representatives of organizations receiving grants through the 2012 Green Streets–Green Jobs–Green Towns Initiative attend a press conference. The Water Environment representative is Tim Williams, senior director of Government Affairs (fourth from left). Photo courtesy of Williams.

Representatives of organizations receiving grants through the 2012 Green Streets–Green Jobs–Green Towns Initiative attend a green jobs training event. Water Environment representative, Tim Williams, senior director of Government Affairs, is fourth from the right. Photo courtesy of Williams.

In the next year, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) will promote innovative solutions to stormwater runoff around the United States. Using a $10,000 grant provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Streets–Green Jobs–Green Towns Initiative, WEF will host a meeting that brings together organizations interested in hosting a Low-Impact Development (LID) Design Competition.

This competition, first held by the Houston Land and Water Sustainability Forum in 2009–2010, asks participants to develop a stormwater management plan relying on LID and presents monetary awards to winners, explained Robert Adair, steering committee chairman of the forum and president of Construction EcoServices (Houston).

WEF wants to use grant money to support this competition and the innovative solutions it generates.

A successful competition can act as a “catalyst” to change the perspective of stormwater management and encourage areas to use LID technology to manage stormwater, explained Seth Brown, WEF Stormwater Program and Policy manager. “Having something that’s at a grassroots [level], from the bottom up, is probably the most effective way at changing the conversation on the topic, and it’s an innovative way of doing it,” he said.

Community volunteers plant rain garden at JE Howard Elementary during the Green Streets–Green Jobs–Green Towns Initiative press conference event. Photo courtesy of Williams.

Community volunteers plant a rain garden at John Eager Howard Elementary School (Baltimore) during the event. Photo courtesy of Williams.

“The ultimate goal is to spur more competitions,” Brown said. And because the competition can be adjusted to reflect local stormwater conditions, it can be replicated in any location across the country. WEF hopes to expand the competition beyond the Mid-Atlantic and Texas, where about 15 competitions have occurred or are in the process of being held, Brown said.

To do this, WEF’s meeting will bring together local governments and organizations that have experience in or are interested in hosting or participating in the competition, “so people can learn from each other,” Brown said.

Through the meeting, WEF will provide information needed not only to host a competition but also to make the competition as effective as possible by involving the public, acknowledging and promoting the winners, raising awareness of the issues and potential solutions, and, hopefully, generating change in the political arena, Brown explained. In the future, WEF hopes to highlight competition winners at conferences and other events, and to get WEF Member Associations involved in local competitions.

Volunteers plant rain garden at JE Howard Elementary. Photo courtesy of Williams.

Volunteers plant a rain garden at John Eager Howard Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Williams.

In June, WEF was named as one of 10 recipients of a $376,000 grant provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust (Annapolis, Md.), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Maryland Department of the Environment. Recipients of the Green Streets grant were chosen to use the funds to advance watershed protection, community livability, and economic vitality through the Chesapeake Bay watershed, according to a Chesapeake Bay Trust news release.

For more information about the Houston LID Design Competition, read the April 2010 Highlights article Houston Competition Sparks Enthusiasm in Low-Impact Development. To learn more about hosting a competition in your area, listen to the three-part LID Series webcasts, with archived recordings available at no charge.

—    Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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