Setting our Sights on Stormwater

By Mike Beezhold, WEF Stormwater Committee Chair

Hot temperatures and heavy rains didn’t dampen the spirits of the more than 360 stormwater professionals from around the country attending the inaugural Stormwater Symposium 2012 in Baltimore. Rather it emphasized the importance of stormwater management and energized good conversation, learning, and professional networking.

Participants made the most of current collective knowledge, insights, and experience in best managing stormwater—preparing for what many are calling “21st Century Water Infrastructure,” a combination of gray and green infrastructure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency addressed implications of the national stormwater rulemaking. Presenters shared case studies stressing the power of precipitation and its pollutant-carrying potential.

On the positive side, rain also has the potential to renew communities and help them prosper through progressive stormwater management by creating jobs, improving quality of life, and introducing green space for all to enjoy. Stormwater infrastructure is no longer “out of sight, out of mind” but is becoming a prominent feature.

For decades, stormwater management has received little dedicated funding, and now the externalities associated with business as usual and deferring maintenance costs have come home to rest. The theme of the 21st century is doing more with less. Communities are finding that going back to green is easing the pain and drain on the pocketbook while providing more community benefits with greater public acceptance.

The multiple benefits of 21st Century Water Infrastructure will far outweigh the costs for this generation and those to come. These themes were heard consistently throughout the symposium. For instance, during the Opening General Session, it was clear — from the small community of Rockville, Md., to the City Baltimore — that commitment to stormwater is a game changer for large and small alike.

Stormwater management is a necessary and “value-added” community service, and like all services, it must be paid for and operated as such. Stormwater infrastructure is an investment in a community’s future — in clean water, green jobs, and flood control. Many states, such as Maryland, are requiring communities to have sufficient funding to meet their stormwater obligations. There were several great presentations regarding the legal, social, and fiscal considerations of community funding options.

It was apparent that the profession of stormwater management has matured during the past 2 decades, enabling the symposium program committee to pick from just over 200 abstracts spanning the many facets of stormwater management.  In fact, the conference planners were able to run three concurrent sessions on both days of the symposium, creating a solid program to enhance the stormwater practitioner’s toolbox. More than 75 presentations took place at the Stormwater Symposium 2012, and their quality reflected the careful review of the symposium program committee. Many thanks to the Water Environment Federation staff, symposium chairs, the steering and program committees, presenters, and, most importantly, the participants for a successful symposium.

Read short summaries of highlighted technical sessions from the 2012 Stormwater Symposium in the Symposium Notes section below. Also, discover more about WEF’s commitment to stormwater management and the Stormwater Committee. We look forward to continuing these conversations and seeing many of you at WEFTEC® in October.

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