James River Study front pageAddressing stormwater pollution carries a significant price tag in Virginia, with cost estimates at $10.5 billion, half the total cost of estimated Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. However, if results from Richmond, Va., are an indicator, costs could be cut by more than 50%. On March 27, the James River Association and Center for Watershed Protection released a study on the cost-effectiveness of stormwater controls in the James River Basin.

Researchers determined that stormwater pollution removal costs can range from $0.97/kg ($0.44/lb) to more than $3300/kg ($1500/lb) — the least expensive being urban stream restoration and the most expensive being urban nutrient management programs on private lands. By comparing cost and pollutant removal efficiencies for a variety of stormwater controls, researchers determined which controls can provide the greatest environmental benefit for the lowest cost. Researchers applied these results to scenarios in Richmond and found that the city could reduce costs by 50%. According to the study, the city could save an additional 35% if allowed to site practices outside city boundaries and if allowed to use the most cost-effective practices, which are not yet approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The report also recommends that localities develop a funding mechanism for managing stormwater and include incentives for private investment, such as stormwater utility credits. Localities should also include stormwater management in capital improvement planning and conduct studies to identify the best locations for stormwater controls in terms of effectiveness and cost, the report says.

The report was released soon after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed HB 2190. The measure requires Virginia localities with stormwater control ordinances that are more stringent than required by state regulations to provide justification. State regulators will review and can reject these ordinances. Provisions also apply to localities that restrict the use of stormwater controls accepted by state regulators. In addition, under HB 2190, affected landowners can ask the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to review an ordinance.