Hidden containers, called geocaches, lead participants to locations with various stormwater best management practices (photo courtesy of LCTV)

The Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC; Libertyville, Ill.) is making stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) understandable and visible to the public through its Caching in on Stormwater BMPS Geocache project.

“Our goal is to show people what BMPs are, how they work, and the importance of including them in site designs,” said Kurt Woolford, SMC chief engineer.

Geocaching is a high-tech, treasure-hunting game played throughout the world by adventure-seekers equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches.

The SMC project will educate geocachers about different stormwater BMPs at sites around Lake County. BMPs displayed at four sites include rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, cisterns, floodways and floodplains, green roofs, and detention ponds.

Lake County geocachers can find GPS coordinates online, then enter them into a handheld GPS or smartphone to locate the first BMP site. Inside the cache, seekers will find information and a question about the BMP at their current location as well as coordinates for the next cache. Answers to the questions can be found near the sites.

After the geocachers complete the trek, they visit SMC, where they will be asked to provide the answers to all the questions. If they answer them correctly, they receive an SMC 20th Anniversary GeoCoin. SMC is tracking the geocachers, who include senior citizens, families, and cub scouts.

“The feedback we’ve received so far is what we were looking for — the public has seen a bioswale or some other BMP but had no idea what it was or its function. Geocachers now connect BMPs with improved water quality and reduced flooding,” said Woolford.

View a short video on SMC’s geocache project, or check out the “Caching in on Stormwater BMPs” website.

SMC also takes the BMP message on the road by sponsoring watershed tours to showcase local, on-the-ground BMP projects, including stream and lakeshore restorations and other stormwater practices that can be applied to homes and businesses. Representatives from homeowner associations, local government agencies, and grassroots watershed groups are on hand to describe how their stormwater practices help to improve water quality, reduce flooding, restore natural drainage systems, and enhance land stewardship in urban settings. Funding for projects through grants and other sources also is discussed.

“It all starts locally, and SMC is promoting cost-effective, sustainable BMP projects using inexpensive outreach tools and opportunities,” Woolford said.
 For more information, see SMC’s website or contact Lake County Communications Manager Susan Vancil at svancil@lakecountyil.gov.