On Sept. 26–30, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) hosted its 88th annual technical exhibition and conference in Chicago, Ill. The event drew more than 25,000 total registrants, a record-breaking number. 2015 also marked the third year for the WEFTEC Stormwater Congress, a spotlight event for stormwater professionals. The event included a robust stormwater technical program with four workshops, a facility tour hosted by the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, and more than 30 sessions as well as a sold-out luncheon featuring Antonio Riley, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The 560-m2 (6000-ft2) Stormwater Pavilion on the exhibit floor featured more than 40 stormwater-specific exhibitors displaying their products and services. The pavilion included a theater with two evening networking receptions and nearly 20 short presentations.
On Sept. 27, WEF hosted a discussion and update of its Stormwater Testing and Evaluation for Products and Practices (STEPP) initiative. The program is focused on understanding the efficacy of manufactured treatment devices and public-domain practices for stormwater management as well as enabling innovation by reducing barriers to getting stormwater products to market. The STEPP effort is led by a workgroup and a smaller steering committee, which released a whitepaper investigating the need for a national program in 2014. Essentially, the group found that a national testing and evaluation program was both needed and feasible. Such a program could result in better performing technologies and approaches, more innovation, and more cost-efficient stormwater controls.
A STEPP advisory committee is now building further momentum toward the reality of a national stormwater testing and evaluation program by developing a specific national program design. A report detailing the committee’s findings from a review of existing state and regional programs as well as program design recommendations will be released in December.
Rainfall to Results
On Sept. 28, WEF officially launched its Stormwater Institute with the release of Rainfall to results: The future of stormwater. In a press event, Michael Beezhold, senior planner at CDM Smith and participant in the discussion that served as the basis for the report, heralded the launch of the institute as “a momentous occasion in the evolution of stormwater management.”
The WEF Stormwater Institute will be a hub for technical information, networking, and policy advocacy focused on addressing stormwater sector challenges. To help solve critical stormwater issues, the institute will leverage WEF’s leadership, diverse membership, breadth of knowledge, and varied partnerships.
“In light of evolving regulations and stormwater permits, the institute absolutely would provide a great forum for professionals dedicated to stormwater management,” said Pinar Balci, who attended a special presentation on the institute and the report at WEFTEC and is director of the Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
The report supports the WEF Stormwater Institute’s efforts by setting a vision for the future of sustainable stormwater management. “Rainfall to results is an impressive report laying out specific objectives and actions that could shape the future of stormwater management both locally and regionally,” Balci said.
Rainfall to results: The future of stormwater is the product of a meeting convened by WEF July 27 and 28 at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread. Stormwater professionals from across the U.S. participated in a discussion that captured current trends and conditions in stormwater, as well as opportunities and pathways toward a sustainable and financially sound stormwater sector.
“The report marks the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. The event at wingspread was just the beginning; there is a lot more work to do,” said Karen Sands, sustainability manager with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District in her closing remarks at the Sept. 28 press event. Sands also was a participant at the Wingspread meeting.
Municipal Stormwater Awards
During the WEFTEC Stormwater Congress luncheon on Sept. 28, WEF presented it’s first-ever National Municipal Stormwater and Green Infrastructure Awards. The program, housed within the WEF Stormwater Institute, recognizes high-performing, regulated Phase I and Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) communities that meet and exceed regulatory requirements in innovative ways that are effective and cost efficient.
With the overall highest score, the Phase I community winner is Charlotte Stormwater Services from Charlotte, North Carolina. The Phase II community winner is the City of Fairbanks, Alaska.
In its inaugural year, the program received a total of thirty applications from Phase I and Phase II communities in 21 different states, indicating widespread national interest and showing the significance of this awards program. A diverse steering committee helped to award each community with a bronze, silver, or gold level designation. In addition to overall highest score, WEF also presented awards to Phase I and II communities for both program management and innovation.
“In reviewing the applications, I was impressed with the adaptability and innovation at the local level,” said Mark Doneux, chair of the steering committee and administrator of the Capitol Region Watershed District. “These communities have taken the NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] program ― a broad, national stormwater initiative ― and made it effective at their geographic and water resource scale.”
National Green Infrastructure Certification
On Sept. 29, George Hawkins, chief executive officer and general manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) announced that the utility will partner with the WEF Stormwater Institute on a new national green infrastructure certification program for construction, inspection, and maintenance.
Green infrastructure provides utilities and public works departments with new avenues to manage stormwater and build local, long-term job opportunities. However, certifying a multidisciplinary, skilled workforce is key to sustainable stormwater management and the success of green infrastructure.
WEF and DC Water are now working toward developing a certification program with a national set of standards that could be adapted on a local basis.
Changes in Leadership
During a ceremony on Sept. 29, Ed McCormick (Oakland, Calif.) passed the WEF “gavel of leadership” to incoming president Paul Bowen, who is currently the director of Sustainable Operations for the Coca-Cola Company.
The 2015 WEFTEC Stormwater Congress also marked a changed in leadership for WEF’s Stormwater Committee. Beezhold, who has held the inaugural stormwater chair position since WEF established the committee in 2011, is transitioning the role of chair to Heather Harris, project manager at CH2M.
With so many needs both regionally and nationally, Harris’ primary goal during her two-year term as chair is to lead the committee in adding to the stormwater body of knowledge, providing value to the sector and to WEF members.
“I am most excited about figuring out how the committee and WEF Stormwater Institute can support one another,” Harris said. “With the launch of the institute and other stormwater initiatives, WEF has built a ton of momentum around stormwater right now.”
The committee also is given new perspective from its two incoming vice chairs, Wesley Sydnor, MS4 program manager with the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District, and Virginia Roach, stormwater and green infrastructure lead practitioner at CDM Smith.
WEF’s Watershed Management Committee also added two new vice chairs, Tom Dupuis, water and natural resources group manager at HDR, Inc. and Chein-Chi Chang, a structural engineer with DC Water.