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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 11/12/2008

Update on D.C.'s Stormwater Management

By Ann Posegate

Wx and the City

Yesterday, the Potomac Conservancy released a report (PDF) on the health of the Potomac River, in which it gave the national river a whopping D+ rating. The main culprit to this near-failing grade? Stormwater runoff.

In September, I described what happens to D.C. rainfall when it hits pavement. More likely than not, it becomes stormwater runoff -- rainwater or snowmelt that flows over impervious (non-porous) surfaces, picks up pollutants from the streets, enters storm drains, potentially mixes with raw sewage, and eventually flows straight into our local waterways.

Keep reading for more on D.C. stormwater management, including tips on how you can help. Also, see our full forecast through the weekend, and don't forget to enter our our photo contest.

D.C. Water and Sewer Authority is required to reduce runoff and improve local water quality. The agency recently announced an Impervious Surface Area billing program that will charge a monthly fee to all properties in the District based on how much stormwater runs off of each property: more impervious surface = more runoff = higher charge. The program will begin in 2009. D.C. WASA is also building three large underground storage tunnels, which will collect excess stormwater during heavy rain events for treatment at a later time.

With rain imminent tomorrow, I'd like to encourage you to watch stormwater runoff in action. Here's an exercise I like to do to remind myself of the impact of urban rainfall on water quality. Go outside to your nearest sidewalk during your lunch break with your rain jacket or umbrella in hand. Take a good look up at the beautiful nimbus clouds, dripping their coalescent droplets onto the city below. Appreciate the rain. Then, look down at the street in front of your feet, and watch what happens to those raindrops when they are not infiltrated into soil or absorbed by vegetation, but rather accumulate by the millions and flow into the nearest storm drain.

What pollutants are the raindrops carrying into your local stream or river? Do they warm up from the heat-absorbing pavement over which they travel? Will they enter the nearby reservoir and become your drinking water? What if there were more parks, forests, gardens, and green roofs to absorb them, or what if they landed on permeable pavement instead? The possibilities for runoff reduction are endless.

Here are 10 things you can do (PDF) individually to help reduce runoff and improve the state of our national river, courtesy of Potomac Conservancy.

More related news headlines:

A Mandatory Sewage Plan In Search of Federal Funding
D.C. Looking to Tackle Pollution, Storm Water Runoff
WUSA9 Video Report

By Ann Posegate  | November 12, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Environment, Posegate, Wx and the City  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Today Clouds, Tomorrow Rain
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Thank you for bringing this to the forefront. I read your earlier post on it and I'm still thinking about it, especially on days with heavy rain! The city's handling of the problem seems pretty appalling, particularly in Georgetown - you would think that people would be disturbed by the many sewage discharge warning signs that line the Georgetown waterfront, but apparently people here don't care enough (or assume it is par for the course). If more media attention was paid to it and the public showed a little more interest, things might be moving a little faster!

Posted by: sixblue | November 12, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse


I'm glad you're aware of the issue. In October, Potomac Conservancy performed a survey of D.C. residents to gauge their awareness of local water quality. The survey results show that many residents are indeed aware that polluted runoff and raw sewage are two major sources of pollution in our rivers. However, many were unable to offer constructive solutions. Check out the key findings and analysis here: (PDF document).

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | November 12, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Check out what the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) recommends to manage stormwater at home! Simply google: "RiverSmart Homes."

In brief, homeowners can receive up to $1,200 to adopt one or more of the following to help control stormwater:
- Shade Trees
- Above Ground Cisterns/Rain Barrels
- Permeable/Porous Pavers
- Rain Gardens
- BayScaping

Posted by: shelbylaubhan | November 12, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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