What makes stormwater pollution control different in the West?

Author: Merritt Frey

In response to our Partners' request for support on the issue, we've been doing some research into what makes stormwater pollution control different here in the West than in the rest of the country. This research will be used to create online support materials and trainings in the future, but we wanted to share a few of the interesting background pieces now as they may prove useful to many.

One of the most on target resources I've found is the Center for Watershed Protection's article Stormwater Strategies for Arid and Semi-Arid Watersheds. It includes some great information about how stormwater events are different in semi-arid and arid areas, and how management strategies need to be adjusted to reflect those differences. The paper's summary states:

It is clear that stormwater managers in arid and semi-arid climates cannot simply import the stormwater programs and practices that were originally developed for humid watersheds. Instead, they will need to develop stormwater solutions that combine aggressive source control, better site design and stormwater practices in a distinctly western context.

The body of the paper includes details about the three things managers need to do differently in the West (aggressive source control, better site design, and distinctly western practices). The Center has provided some good, meaty details in a manner that will still allow lay people to grasp the ideas.

Another good general resource is the January/February 2009 issue of the Stormwater Journal, which includes a feature article on stormwater management in the West: Stormwater Management in Arid and Drought-Prone Regions. The article includes case studies of work going on in Arizona, New Mexico and Georgia.

The idea of using stormwater in some beneficial way is under discussions in many forums around the West despite concerns about water rights and possible impacts on stream flows. A few interesting resources on this concept include:

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