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Stormwater Strategies
Community Responses to Runoff Pollution

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Chapter 8


Addressing Stormwater in New Development and Redevelopment
Aurora, CO | The Woodlands, TX | Austin, TX | Additional Examples

Promoting Public Education and Participation
Texas Natural Resources Conservation | Boulder, CO | Fort Worth, TX | Additional Examples

Controlling Construction Site Runoff
Garland, TX | City of Tulsa, OK | Additional Examples

Detecting and Eliminating Improper or Illegal Connections and Discharges
Tulsa, OK | Fort Worth, TX | Additional Examples

Implementing Pollution Prevention for Municipal Operations
Jefferson County, CO | Austin, TX | Additional Examples

Addressing Stormwater in New Development and Redevelopment

Shop Creek Restoration

Aurora, CO 1
Population: 255,000
Area: 133 square miles

Highlight: Innovative stream restoration reduces nutrient and sediment loads to a local lake as well as provides a beautiful recreation area.

The City of Aurora, located just east of Denver, contains Cherry Creek State Park and Cherry Creek Reservoir. Shop Creek drains into the reservoir that provides flood control and recreational opportunities for the citizens of the Denver metropolitan area. Like much of the Denver area, Aurora has experienced rapid growth over the past few decades. By the late 1980s, extensive urban development within the Shop Creek watershed had increased the volume of runoff, phosphorus load, and sediment load of the stormwaters entering Shop Creek. This increased flow in the creek caused extensive stream-bank erosion just upstream of the reservoir. The bank erosion caused sediment deposition problems on reservoir property. Also, sediment and phosphorus from the entire Cherry Creek watershed has caused algal blooms, reducing its appeal for swimming and boating. Improvement to Shop Creek was an important component of the overall plan to improve water quality in the Cherry Creek Reservoir.

Worried about the creek and the reservoir, the city, the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, and the Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority sought to reduce phosphorus loads carried by the stream by 50 percent, as well as to mitigate the stream-bank erosion problems. At the same time, the city did not want to disrupt the prairie landscape that surrounds the creek, which provides a scenic vista from an adjacent highway and state recreation area.

The design team rejected an earlier plan for the creek, which involved confining it to a uniform channel. Instead, their new design, constructed in 1988–89, relies on biofiltration, detention, and infiltration. The restored creek first enters a partially vegetated detention pond that provides initial settling of sediment and uptake of nutrients. Allowing suspended particles to settle out removes absorbed phosphorus. From the pond, water follows the existing, sinuous course of the creek rather than the straight channel originally envisioned. Terraced, crescent-shaped drop structures built of soil cement periodically interrupt the channel, slowing stream flow and reducing erosion. Constructed wetlands along the creek's banks further reduce phosphorus through biological uptake and provide stability to the stream bank.

Monitoring by the Cherry Creek Basin Water Quality Authority indicates that the project is meeting its goal -- reducing phosphorus by 50 percent or more. The Authority has regularly monitored water quality since the construction of the Shop Creek Pollutant Reduction Facility, conducting monthly base-flow as well as storm-flow monitoring from April through October. In 1996, nine storm events were monitored in Shop Creek at three sites.

The facility has always shown a net removal of phosphorus on an annual basis, though the wetlands do add phosphorus to the system occasionally. This removal is the basis for trading credits for the overall Cherry Creek Reservoir Phosphorus Trading Program. Monitoring from 1994 through 1996 has shown that the system is in a mature and stable period. The Authority used these data to determine the phosphorus loading to the system and annual removal efficiency. The data indicate that on average 261 pounds of phosphorus are removed per year. Based on this distribution, 186 pounds of total phosphorus per year are available for trading, 70 percent of the estimated average total pounds removed per year.

The crescent-shaped structures cost less than concrete baffle-chute structures that were part of the early plan. The soil-cement structures, wetlands, and sinuous creek channel also respect and preserve the natural aesthetic appeal of the site and provide habitat for a variety of birds and wildflowers. The combination of natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and a recreation trail draws people from the nearby subdivision, as well as the adjacent state recreation area, to visit Shop Creek.

The project has received an Honorable Mention in the national competition for Engineering Design from the Consulting Engineers Council, a Merit Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects, and a Wildlife Enhancement Award from the Arapahoe County Action Council.

Contact: Kevin Wegener, Manager of Wastewater Operations, City of Aurora Utilities Department, CO, 303-739-7380, email: utilities@auroragov.org.

Community Designed With Nature

The Woodlands, TX 2
Population: 258,127
Area: 1,044 square miles

Highlight: Use of natural drainage and careful attention to soil types saves money, avoids flooding, and creates a more attractive community.

The Woodlands master-planned community continues to demonstrate a successful stormwater strategy over 20 years after development began. By the early 1970s, developer George Mitchell had acquired in bits and pieces a tract of approximately 18,000 acres of land about 25 miles north of Houston. He wanted to create a profitable, large-scale community with a diverse population and significant commercial development. At the same time, he was convinced that preservation of the dense pine-oak forest on the site -- the only large forest in the region -- was important.

The Woodlands was the first new city designed through ecological planning. The planners started with a comprehensive environmental analysis of the tract. The most sensitive aspect of the project was surface hydrology. The site had a wide mix of soils -- some very pervious and some very impervious -- and was extremely flat, so that broad flood plains extended alongside the three creeks that traversed the land. In their design, the planners chose to rely on an enhancement of the natural drainage system as the best way to preserve the forest and to ensure adequate drainage for residential and other areas. Homes were placed on the more elevated areas of the site, which also tended to have less pervious soils. This kept homes out of the creek floodplains, preserved more of the pervious soils, and allowed the use of the already existing drainage network rather than the creation of a completely new system. Roads did not have curbs and gutters. New and existing drainage swales and channels draining roads and home sites lead to constructed lakes and ponds or directly to the streams themselves. On individual home sites, clearance of trees and other existing vegetation was minimized, so that backyards or entire lots remained forested, with clearing generally reserved for the area actually occupied by the home.

The planners set aside land for the drainage system as well as for a complementary network of recreational open space, including a system of pedestrian/bike paths, tot lots, and other features. They then sited seven separate areas of development that respected these set-asides. Grogan's Mill was the first of these areas to be built out, opening in late 1974. The natural drainage system there worked remarkably well in dealing with water-quantity problems. A torrential storm producing nine inches of rain in five hours on April 18, 1979, inundated all subdivisions in the area except Woodlands, where no homes flooded.

Certain financial difficulties characterized the early years of the Woodlands. Homes in Grogan's Mill began to come onto the market during the recession of the mid-1970s at the same time that problems in the federal loan program that provided financing for the project delayed the receipt of necessary funds. Mitchell defused the crisis and the Grogan's Mill part of the development began to show a profit by the end of 1978. The Woodlands experienced high market demand in the late 1970s, with praise offered by residents for the green areas and natural drainage system.

Notwithstanding the commercial success of Grogan's Mill, the development corporation moved away from the original conception as it continued to build out the Woodlands. While retaining some detention ponds and other practices beneficial to water quality and quantity, the corporation returned to a significant extent to a standard concrete curb-and-gutter subsurface drainage system for the Cochran's Crossing development area in the early 1980s. Rather than preserving natural forest cover on the individual home sites and common areas, the developer began to adhere to the letter of the restrictive covenants so that only trees larger than 6 inches in diameter and isolated plots of native vegetation were retained, surrounded by a much greater amount of manicured turf than at Grogan's Mill. One commentator has noted that the drainage system used at Cochran's Crossing is essentially no different than systems used in other nearby developments. In reverting to the conventional practice, the developer has foregone the significant cost savings that the original drainage system provided. Cost estimates prepared in the early 1970s projected that use of natural drainage rather than conventional methods would have reduced drainage costs from $18,679,300 to $4,200,400, a 77 percent savings.

Ironically, the lack of significant zoning and subdivision restrictions in the Houston area allowed the developer both to initiate and to abandon the original innovative surface drainage approach. Nonetheless, the Grogan's Mill component of the Woodlands remains instructive -- natural drainage can provide financial and environmental success.

Contact: Roger Galates, President, The Woodlands Corporation, TX, 281-719-6106.

Retrofit Program Creates Wet Ponds

Austin, TX3
Population: 465,622
Area: 218 square miles

Highlight: Converting a dry detention facility to a series of ecologically designed wet ponds creates a popular amenity while significantly reducing stormwater pollution and flooding.

Faced with a rapidly growing population, residents of Austin, Texas, saw a need to address the increasing degree of associated imperviousness. Additionally, dependence on a sole source aquifer raised concerns over the effects of increased imperviousness on drinking water quantity and quality. In response, Austin developed a series of ordinances beginning in the early 1980s that evolved into a multifaceted program to address water-quality issues associated with development.

The Urban Watershed Retrofit program focuses on watersheds classified as urban based on historical land development patterns. To help address the constraints of land limitations and tight budgets, the city initiated an optional urban watershed ordinance fee. Under this program, private developers can choose to make a payment to the city based on the amount of new impervious cover instead of installing on-site water-quality controls. The ordinance fee, along with monthly drainage utility fees, generates funds for retrofitting performed by the city. In addition, by working with properties already available, the city is able to avoid the delicate issue of land condemnation.

One example of the Urban Watersheds Retrofit Program is the joint private/public Central Park Wet Ponds project constructed on state land but financed in part through the retrofit program. The partnership included the Texas Department of Mental Health and Retardation, the Texas Land General Office, the Barshop & Oles Company, and the city Watershed Protection Department.

The project consists of three interconnected wet ponds constructed in series out of an existing dry detention facility. The developer designed the wet ponds to capture and treat stormwater yet contain water at all times, thereby providing environmental as well as aesthetic and economic benefits to the houses, shops, businesses, and health-care facilities that comprise the community. The wet ponds treat stormwater runoff from the 39-acre state-owned property that houses a new planned community and an additional 134 acres of off-site roadways, residential properties, and commercial areas under city jurisdiction. Approximately 54 percent of the project area is covered with impervious surfaces and over 60 percent (99.1 acres) is publicly owned and managed.

Pumps circulate the water through the ponds to enhance aesthetics and water-treatment functions. As the water moves through the system, contaminants either settle to the bottom or are reduced through microbial treatment and vegetative filtration. Monitoring found that optimal treatment occurs after two weeks of retention. The city estimates that removal of the accumulated sediments, nutrients, petroleum products, pesticides, and metals will be needed only at 20 to 25 year intervals. To provide flood control benefits, captured stormwater is released slowly after storm events using a stage weir, which helps provide flood control benefits. Up to 300,000 cubic feet of water can be retained by the wet ponds.

Other features include the introduction of Mosquitofish (Gambusia sp.) that eat mosquito larvae, two waterfalls between the ponds that increase oxygen to the system, and a solar-powered water monitoring station that collects water-quality samples. The city used native plant species to help absorb nutrients. Furthermore, the ponds continue to function and maintain their aesthetic appeal under drought conditions, which representatives attribute to the relatively large drainage area involved.

The wet ponds also provide recreational and aesthetic benefits. In general, support for the stormwater aspect of Central Park has been good. Many local residents enjoy the ponds and associated open space for running, biking, and walking, or simply sitting and observing wildlife. However, planners believe that additional public support could have been gained if the city and state had given the local public more of a role in the Central Park planning and decision making process.

The total cost of the project was $584,181, of which $45,000 went to wetland landscaping. Costs were high for wet ponds due to the closeness of the groundwater table to the land surface. While environmental benefits have not been converted to a dollar value, monitoring results found high levels of pollutants in the sediments captured by the ponds. Project personnel estimated that the ponds capture 40,000 pounds of total suspended solids, 200 pounds of total nitrogen, 30 pounds of total phosphorous, and 4 pounds of lead per year. Removal efficiencies were also calculated (see table).

Central Park is used by the city of Austin to demonstrate that wet ponds are an effective approach to control flood water and protect water quality that also provide aesthetic and recreational benefits. Additionally, the wet ponds serve as a forum for the city to encourages pollution prevention as well as to inform residents and visitors about wet ponds and their role in managing stormwater runoff.

Water Quality ParameterRemoval Efficiency
Total suspended solids85%
Chemical oxygen demand57%
Total petroleum hydrocarbons57%
Nitrate/nitrite as N65%
Total phosphorus62%
Total DDTs71%
Total PAHs68%

Contact: Leila Gosselink, Engineer, Environmental Resource Management Division, Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, TX, 512-974-1869, email: leila.gosselink@ci.austin.tx.us.

Additional Examples

South Platte River Commission, Denver, Colorado4

The South Platte River Commission formed a partnership with the community to redevelop the South Platte River. The partnership acquired nearly 80 acres of land for riverfront parks and wildlife refuges linked by a greenway trail, water-quality improvements, river cleanup, flood protection, recreation, and community revitalization.

Contact: Bar Chadwick, Director, South Platte River Initiative, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, CO, 303-913-5516, email: chadwbc@ci.denver.co.us.

Stapleton Airport Redevelopment, Denver, Colorado5

The redevelopment plan for Stapleton Airport as a new community includes a surface stormwater system to convey runoff from street and developed areas, and retain the 100-year storm (a large storm with a probability of occurring once in 100 years). By avoiding major subsurface infrastructure, developers will save an estimated $20 million in storm sewer outfall costs The system also harvests runoff water for irrigating landscaped areas. As part of the project, Westerly Creek, which is currently buried, will be restored.

Contact: Billy Gregg, Wenk Associates, CO, 303-628-0003, email: general@wenkla.com.

Land Development Guidance System, Fort Collins, Colorado6

In 1979, Fort Collins developed a Land Development Guidance System to provide developers with a performance-standard alternative to conventional zoning. The system focused on quality of development and insulating adjoining uses from adverse effects through buffering, landscaping, and other performance standards. In 1997, Fort Collins incorporated these efforts into its comprehensive planning program.

Contact: Joe Frank, Advance Planning Director, City of Fort Collins, CO, 970-221-6376, email: jfrank@fcgov.com.

Biodetention, Austin, Texas7

Biodetention controls stormwater and sedimentation by using a variety of vegetation types in series to slow, screen, filter, and infiltrate runoff. A system installed at a 144-acre, single-family subdivision in Austin cost $185,000 less to construct than a traditional detention pond. It also saved $50 million in storm sewer construction costs, and an estimated $550 to $3,300 annually in maintenance costs.

Contact: George Murfee, Murfee Engineering Co., Inc., TX, 512-327-9204, email: gmurfee@murfee.com.

Promoting Public Education and Participation

Composting Prevents Water Pollution

Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission 8
Population: 19,439,337
Area: 261,914 square miles

Highlight: Education about composting of yard waste through "master composters" effectively changed citizen and local government practices, improved water quality, and saved landfilling costs.

In undeveloped areas, decaying leaves, branches, tree trunks, and other organic matter provide both nutrients for living plants and trees, and a covering for the ground that helps to prevent soil erosion. In urbanized areas, however, homeowners often break this natural cycle by bagging their lawn and garden trimmings and sending them to landfills. Alternatively, garden and lawn waste end up in stormwater runoff, increasing oxygen demand in receiving waters. Municipalities and citizens face a number of increased costs because of this practice. In Texas each year, over 5 million tons of yard trimmings and other organic materials are sent to landfills, taking up more than 15 million cubic yards of space, and costing Texans more than $150 million. To replace the nutrients sent to the landfill, homeowners spend additional money on commercial fertilizer. Chemical fertilizers do not have the stabilizing function of naturally occurring organic material, and therefore are more frequently carried off the land in runoff to contaminate lakes and streams.

Household and municipal composting, however, is an alternative to dumping yard trimmings in landfills or storm sewers. Use of compost as mulch and fertilizer can help to re-create the natural cycle described above. The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) saw composting as one important solution to the problems caused by disposal of yard waste, and established its Urban Compost Educational Outreach Program. The goal was to increase composting and decrease use of chemical fertilizers by educating both individual citizens and waste-control professionals.

To reach citizens, the program recruited "master composters" -- local citizens who volunteer their time to become knowledgeable about the science and practice of composting production and use. TNRCC started by selecting three communities -- Wichita Falls, Corpus Christi, and Garland -- to serve as host cities for master composter training. Later, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Concho Valley Council of Governments also hosted master composter training sessions. These five events in 1995 trained 116 master composters, meeting their initial goal of 100. Each of these master composters was asked to perform 20 hours of outreach to at least 30 persons. By December 1995, the master composters had provided at least 3,951 individuals with information through workshops, establishing demonstration sites, and other educational presentations, exceeding TNRCC's goal of reaching 3,000 individuals.

TNRCC used a similar approach to educate local government officials about centralized municipal composting operations. The program selected three cities with existing municipal composting programs -- Beaumont, Bryan, and Big Spring -- to host educational sessions for the local officials. At these sessions, the instructors presented information about collecting and processing yard materials, marketing the compost product, facility siting, regulatory compliance, and other important issues. Ninety-five local officials attended these sessions, just short of the goal of 100.

The environmental objective of the program was to document a 5 to 10 percent reduction in chemical fertilizer use, but TNRCC was not able to accomplish this. Instead, the agency conducted a survey of the attendees of four of the five master gardener courses after the sessions. The survey results show marked changes in behavior. Of the survey respondents, 88 percent of those who did not compost prior to the training sessions did so afterwards, and 100 percent of those who previously set out organic materials for garbage collection no longer do so. Of those using fertilizer on their lawns, 70 percent reduced the amount used. Although most participants left their grass clippings on the lawn rather than bag them prior to the sessions, all of those that reported bagging prior to the session began to leave their clippings on the lawn after the session. The principal materials composted after the sessions were lawn and garden waste, with 84 percent composting leaves, 81 percent composting grass, and 22 percent composting garden debris. Reported uses for the compost included soil amendment, mulch, lawn fertilizer, and potted plants.

The program also surveyed the municipal officials in the centralized composting programs. They rated the effectiveness of the sessions as high, with 77 percent of the respondents stating that their knowledge of centralized composting improved as a result of the workshop. Thirty percent of the respondents reported using less fertilizer after the training. Although a causal link was not proven, it is instructive that half of the municipalities that did not have a centralized composting program developed one after a local participant attended the sessions, and all of the communities that did not previously send materials to a centralized composting program had plans to do so.

The original source of financing was federal grant money under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, allocated by the state of Texas. Scott McCoy of the TNRCC argues that the program's biggest success is that the state no longer needs to fund the program. The program and a full-time state-wide coordinator are now funded through the agency's general budget, with 50 percent coming from the state's landfill surcharge. The program also receives support from the Texas regional councils of government. Almost all activities are focused locally; approximately 40 communities have active master composter training programs, or have indicated that they will implement one in the near future.

Contact: Scott McCoy, Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, 512-239-6774. Susan Reed, Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, 512-239-1000.

Caring for Boulder Creek

Boulder, CO9
Population: 95,000
Area: 23 square miles

Highlight: Highly directed experiential public education, using school-group activities, neighborhood cleanups, and interpretive signs in a popular park, demonstratively increases awareness of and support for stormwater management.

"This creek is in your care." Boulder residents and visitors see these words every time they travel on a major road that crosses Boulder Creek or one of its tributaries. Waterway signage is one of several strategies used by the Boulder Public Works Department's (PWD) stormwater education program, which received recognition through the U.S. EPA Administrator's Award for Pollution Prevention in 1992, and the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Manager's Outstanding Project of 1997 Award.

Boulder Creek flows down from the Rocky Mountains through the center of Boulder. The Boulder Creek watershed is under extreme pressure from mining operations, wastewater treatment, agricultural runoff, and urban stormwater runoff. Several studies document high water temperatures, high pH, and elevated concentrations of un-ionized ammonia and nutrients, conditions that were contributing to low species diversity and density.10 Stormwater is a major concern since all city drains connect to Boulder Creek or its tributaries.

The stormwater quality education program is part of the city's efforts to meet federal, state, and community-based water-quality standards. Education complements other city programs such as the Stormwater and Flood Management Utility, the Comprehensive Drainage Utility Master Plan, the Storm Water Quality Program, and the Boulder Creek Enhancement Project. Through these efforts, the city is beginning to see improvements in the quality of Boulder Creek including reductions in sedimentation, garbage and rubble, and petroleum products.11 The city has also noted reductions in improper disposals, including household hazardous waste, and an increased awareness of pollution-prevention activities.

Boulder began its stormwater education campaign in 1989. The city expanded the program in 1991 by establishing a stormwater quality educator position, and in 1996 by including the entire 440-acre watershed. It now reaches over 3.1 million people each year through programs such as WatershED, STREAMTEAM, the Boulder Creek Library Display, the Boulder Creek Watershed Forum, and the Boulder Creek Interpretive Walk.

The flagship of the stormwater quality education program is WatershED. Through WatershED students adopt a nearby section of creek to clean up and monitor. They also participate in a variety of classroom and outdoor stormwater-related activities, including the classroom aquarium project, in which students raise and release native tiger salamanders to local streams. To date, 16 Boulder schools (K–12) use the WatershED curriculum, reaching approximately 600 students per semester. This has a multiplier effect since the curriculum has several take-home activities that students do with their parents.

Another program, STREAMTEAM, is oriented toward neighborhoods, youth groups, and small businesses. STREAMTEAM programs include neighborhood workshops, trash pick-up, aquatic insect surveys, stream monitoring, storm-drain stenciling, and information for reporting spills and other problems. Current groups include two neighborhood organizations, the Boulder Creek Watershed Initiative, the Colorado Youth Program, and a local chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Much of the program's exposure to the public comes from the Boulder Library Aquarium Display and the Boulder Creek Interpretive Walk. The aquarium is a three-tiered, 420-gallon cold-water aquarium and a 225-gallon warm-water tank installed in the main branch of the Boulder Public Library in 1992. The aquarium display is used as a forum to present environmental information, including potential impacts of urban runoff. Between 3,000 and 4,000 people visit the library each day. The Boulder Creek Path is one of the most popular amenities in Boulder, attracting nearly 2 million visits each year. To take advantage of this exposure, the city created an Interpretive Creek Walk in 1993, which uses signage to display information about the creek and the environment. In 1994, the city developed a trail guide for use with the Walk, which helps raise awareness of the creek as an important resource.

In addition, residents can attend the Boulder Creek Watershed Forum, a series of lectures where area experts discuss Boulder Creek watershed issues. Held at the public library, these lectures average between 75 and 100 people; the largest attendance was more than 500. Local channel 8 TV videotaped these lectures and plans to produce a series of 30-minute segments. The program also consists of a children's water festival, attended by over 1,000 fifth graders in 1998; an informational booth at the Boulder Creek Festival; and a storm drain stenciling program that is in its seventh year. So far, 300 storm drains have been stenciled.

The Denver Urban Resources Partnership Office provided funding for WatershED, which received $9,500 in 1996 and $9,000 in 1997. Funding for the other programs comes out of the Stormwater Quality division's education budget. This budget receives half its support from the city's general account and half from Boulder's stormwater and flood management utility. Utility fees are charged to all owners of developed property in the city based on the anticipated use of stormwater and flood drainage facilities (see the box in Chapter 4). In addition, a developer fee is charged to all newly developed properties.

The stormwater education program, combined with the city's other stormwater management programs, has resulted in benefits to the ecology and local community. While the PWD is still in the process of evaluating the education program's success, anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness exists. Annual telephone surveys have revealed that Boulder citizens are increasingly aware of stormwater issues and the city's stormwater management system. As part of the PWD's involvement with the fifth-grade science curriculum, students are given pre- and post-tests of their basic knowledge about stormwater. The results of these test show considerable improvement. Program Director Donna Scott feels that this gain in knowledge is largely do to the program's experiential approach.

Contact: Tammi Laninga, Water Resource Educator, Stormwater Quality Office, City of Boulder Public Works Department, Boulder, CO, 303-413-7350.

Diazinon Toxicity Education

Fort Worth, TX12
Population: 490,500
Area: 281 square miles

Highlight: Education about insecticides, using a variety of messages, successfully cleans runoff, saving the city costly fines or treatment.

Fire ants, which swarm and sting, and water fleas, which are used to test and measure water health, are killed by the pesticide diazinon. The discovery of diazinon in Fort Worth's municipal sewage effluent and stormwater samples led to the initiation of a public education campaign to persuade homeowners to switch to less toxic pesticides. It also led the Fort Worth Parks and Community Services Department to switched to less toxic alternatives. Apparently as a result of these efforts, toxicity in the city's sewage effluent dropped, and other cities including El Paso and Houston are looking to Fort Worth as a model for their own programs to reduce the toxicity of their insect controls.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the city often failed "whole effluent toxicity" (WET) tests. A WET test measures the toxicity of a waste stream to certain small fish and aquatic insects -- specifically, to fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and water fleas (Daphnia) -- considered good indicators of healthy aquatic life. After the failing WET test, Fort Worth used lab analyses to pinpoint the common home and garden organophosphate insecticide, diazinon, as a prime culprit causing the toxicity. Diazinon persists when it washes off of lawns and driveway surfaces into storm sewers and domestic sewage lines during rainstorms, ending up in local rivers and streams where as much as a tenth of a microgram per liter (one-tenth of one part per billion) is chronically toxic to water fleas. Residential neighborhoods are thought to be the pesticide's primary source.

Fort Worth's response to the diazinon toxicity problem, through the cooperation of the Water Department with the Environmental Management Department, was first to find out who was using the pesticide, and for what purposes. A telephone survey was conducted in which many homeowners said that they rarely, if ever, used toxic pesticides, while some admitted to high rates of use. The phone survey was followed up with a focus group study, in which homeowners recounted their pesticide useage. One woman revealed that any time she saw a fire ant she would "go out and nuke the whole yard." Fire ants were the target insect for 67 percent of reported users of diazinon. Many believed they could "spray to their heart's content" with their pesticide of choice, because they believed that modern pesticides are formulated to break down instantly and to leave no environmental residual. These revelations led the city to develop an aggressive public education campaign aimed at changing these beliefs and practices in order to protect the city's water quality.

The city identified and promoted the availability of less toxic pesticides to fire ants when infestations broke out, and educates citizens on how to avoid such infestations. Non-pesticide alternatives, such as nematodes that prey on fire ants, are still under research. While an environmental message works with some people, others are motivated more by economics; specifically, the likely sewage rate increases that would accompany an investment by the city in tertiary treatment such as granular activated carbon, if the effluent tests did not show reduction in toxicity.

Block parties held in cooperation with neighborhood associations have been particularly effective in getting homeowners to stop using diazinon, because maximum effectiveness requires an entire community to be using the same pest-fighting strategy. Other outreach methods include gardening seminars through the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, booth space at the Fort Worth Home and Garden show, news releases, meetings with licensed pesticide applicators and the Texas Association of Landscape Contractors, leafletting at home and garden centers, and sponsoring a special emblem patch in Integrated Pest Management for local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Fort Worth officials have also worked closely with home and garden retailers. Future efforts may also include outreach and education to other municipalities in the region.

The toxicity of the city's sewage effluent has decreased and, based on limited data, it appears that the toxicity of stormwater has decreased as well. City officials believe the public education campaign is largely to thank, but seek more data to establish a stronger relationship between public education programs and storm- water trends.

Contact: Mary Gugliuzza, Public Education Coordinator, Fort Worth Water Department, TX, 817-871-8253, email: mgugli1@ci.fort-worth.tx.us.

Additional Examples

Xeriscape™ Demonstration and Education, Colorado Springs, Colorado13

Colorado Springs constructed a xeriscaped garden outside its Water Utilities department to demonstrate techniques to conserve water and reduce runoff. In addition, 110 residents are participating in a program sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Metro Water Board that compares home xeriscaping to control sites over a five-year period. Cost assistance is provided to participants.

Contact: Ann Seymour, Colorado Springs Utilities Water Conservation Office, Colorado Springs Utilities Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, 719-668-4556.

Lawn Clipping Program, Plano, Texas14

This city program encourages residents to leave lawn clippings on their lawns rather that collect them for disposal by the city. Plano saved $6,000 in disposal costs despite an increase in households served due to a reduction in grass clippings. Leaving clippings on lawn provides nutrients and moisture, thereby reducing homeowners need to spend money on fertilizer and water.

Contact: Heather Merchant, Backyard Compost Program Coordinator, City of Plano Solid Waste Department, TX, 972-964-4172, email: heatherm@gwmail.plano.gov .

Xeriscaping™ Requirements, Albuquerque, New Mexico15

As part of the city's water conservation ordinance, all new private development must be 80 percent xeriscaped, and all new city projects must be 100 percent xeriscaped. The city also encourages xeriscaping through an incentive program that offers $0.15 per square foot of turf converted. Since many homeowners manage their own yards, seminars are offered twice per month and the city developed a 40-page color guide.

Contact: Doug Bennett, Public Works Department, Albuquerque, NM, 505-768-3647.

Controlling Construction Site Runoff

Outreach and Enforcement in Balance

Garland, TX16
Population: 180,650
Area: 57 square miles

Highlight: An appropriate balance between outreach and enforcement is key to an effective construction runoff program.

The City of Garland, is located just northeast of Dallas and spreads out over 57 square miles. Like many cities, Garland's emphasis is to foster development; what makes it a leader is its commitment to protecting its streams and other natural amenities during the development process. Garland began its program for erosion control on construction sites in 1993 with the publication of a best management practices (BMP) manual. Prior to that, "virtually none of the Garland construction sites had erosion controls," notes Philip Welsch, the city's stormwater coordinator. Garland's Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) requirements apply to all sites down to 5,000 square feet, and site-level pollution prevention plans are required for all sites of 1 acre or larger. Garland's erosion control officials work closely with developers, providing training using the BMP manual and spending time one-on-one with contractors at the sites.

Education and the BMP manual form the underpinnings of the program. Garland, as well as EPA Region 6, have conducted numerous outreach activities including many conferences. However, it is the active enforcement of local requirements that distinguishes Garland's program. Inspectors visit each construction site at least monthly, with some higher-priority sites getting more frequent visits. The program uses stop-work orders to get developers to correct violations such as faulty, or nonexistent, structural or source controls. Stormwater inspectors have found that for Garland's active sites, stop-work orders are more effective than citations, the only other major enforcement tool available directly to the city. On sites where grading or other land-disturbing activity is ongoing, stop-work orders are effective since contractors feel a real "pinch," in lost time and money, when local officials force a stoppage until stream protections are fully in place.

From February through September of 1997, Garland issued 464 stop-work orders to single-family home sites, and 16 stop-work orders to whole subdivisions. Typically, the problem is "mud in the street," according to Welsch: for bad-actor subdivisions, there are often "acres and acres of mud in the streets." The stormwater drainage system is often installed first at a site. Then, when further earthmoving occurs in the absence of proper erosion controls, the storm drain system brings mud directly and quickly to streams. Garland's stop-work orders substantially reduce this flow of mud from wayward sites, with site operators typically making corrections within 24 hours.

On the other hand, developers sometimes remove vegetation and grade sites, then leave the site inactive while they garner further investors or permits. For these inactive sites, and for contractors who fail to correct violations, citations, a form of criminal prosecution, remain the only enforcement tool available to city officials. They are so time consuming however, that only two such citations were brought by Garland against construction sites in 1997.

To help Garland and other cities in the region, EPA's Region 6 in Dallas is now also stepping up its enforcement activity. EPA enforcement under the Clean Water Act, with possible penalties up to $27,500 per day, can be particularly useful for inactive sites where the local government has fewer options. EPA plays a major role in bringing its own enforcement actions and publicizing them, and in jump-starting local programs' own enforcement.

According to EPA, the critical element of Garland's strategy is that it has struck an appropriate, equal balance between its outreach and enforcement roles. "A problem in some environmental agencies is that the agency goes overboard on outreach to the point where the government becomes a consultant and almost never utilizes their enforcement tools," states EPA Region 6 stormwater official Taylor Sharpe. "These agencies need to recognize where the line is drawn between what roles environmental consultants fill and what roles the government fills."

Contact: Philip Welsch, Storm Water Program Manager, City of Garland, TX, 972-205-2189, email: pwelsch@ci.garland.tx.us.

Typical Steps in Enforcement Escalation for Construction Sites
A well-known tenet of environmental enforcement is that violators are to be subject to increasingly tougher enforcement actions if they remain in violation. Until recently, this principle has not always been applied to construction sites. The following are typical steps in such an "enforcement escalation" for construction sites as promoted by U.S. EPA.

  1. Notice of Violation or Warning
  2. Usually with a check-back within a day or week, depending upon circumstances
  3. Second Notice of Violation (with larger fines) or Field Citation (with penalty) or Stop-Work Order ("Red Tag")
  4. Federal Clean Water Act Lawsuit

Source: Taylor Sharpe, Stormwater Coordinator, U.S. EPA Region 6.

Increased Inspections

Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority 17
Population: 367,302
Area: 184 square miles

Highlight: Well-educated inspectors form the backbone of an aggressive enforcement effort.

Construction site runoff management and erosion prevention are key components of Tulsa's stormwater discharge program. The backbone of the program is formed by the city's water development regulations.18 Through building and stormwater permits, the city can require the use of structural and nonstructural BMPs to reduce water pollution problems derived from construction sites.

"Earth Change" permits are required for any earth-disturbing activity that is greater than one acre. To be in compliance, a developer must install erosion control measures that prevent any sediment loss from the site during a rain event. The city requires stormwater permit for all sites disturbing five or more acres. To receive a permit, applicants must submit a Notice of Intent along with a city-approved stormwater pollution prevention plan. The Public Works Department (PWD) screens proposed developments and notifies applicants of appropriate measures to achieve compliance prior to issuing permits.

To ensure compliance, the PWD performs inspections of construction sites. A primary goal of the program is to educate and train all city inspectors from the Engineering and Customer Services departments to make them aware of the city's erosion control requirements. Completion of an erosion control checklist is required during every city inspection.

Inspections can either be scheduled or requested by concerned citizens. The PWD performed 17,911 inspections in 1997 and 1998, many of which were performed by Customer Services during various building inspections. The city can take enforcement action if inspectors find sediment leaving a site or an inadequate prevention plan. Approximately 1,075 of the visits resulted in some type of enforcement, including 20 notices of violation specifying a time period for correction. Inspectors often required or suggested changes to the prevention plan, and implemented erosion control measures. About 90 percent of inspections resulted in actions taken by a developer to improve erosion control at their site, according to environmental compliance specialist Scott Van Loo.

In cooperation with other institutions, the city conducted several informational programs during the 1996/1997 reporting period. The Blue Thumb Project sponsored a meeting at the Tulsa Metropolitan Home Builders Association, and the Public Works Department organized a presentation on soil erosion and sediment control regulations conducted by federal EPA representatives. The city also worked closely with and supported programs sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT). These included a two-day course on soil erosion and sediment control that trained project level inspectors, engineers, designers, contractors, foremen, and other personnel working on highway and bridge construction. Approximately 100 people attended the course, which covered runoff, construction site stabilization, and pollution prevention plans. The ODOT also prepared a manual entitled ODOT Stormwater Management Guidelines for Design and Construction Activities, which was distributed in the fall of 1997.

Tulsa is taking measures to prevent construction site runoff on their own properties as well. During the 1996/1997 reporting period, Tulsa's Engineering Services developed 24 stormwater pollution prevention plans for construction sites operated by the city, including road construction, sewer extensions, and other capital improvements. The city's plans set an example for the construction community, emphasizing BMPs such as minimizing vegetation removal, addressing both active and inactive construction areas, maintaining control structures, and protecting sediment in the site's interior, as well as containing it at the margins.

Since the program's inception, Scott Van Loo has seen a "night and day difference in implementation." He says that it is now rare to find a site without erosion and stormwater control measures. However, Van Loo is quick to point out that day-to-day maintenance remains an issue of concern. Currently, contractors are required to perform and log inspections after rain events. However, there is no way to enforce this or any needed improvements. The PWD is currently working to adjust the ordinance to allow for enforcement action if contractors are not performing adequate maintenance. This would enable inspectors to address problems before a violation occurs. Van Loo also wants to see a change in the ordinance that holds subcontractors liable for their activities at a site.

Please refer to the table below, "Water Quality Improvement," for water-quality monitoring data associated with Tulsa's overall stormwater program.

Contact: Scott Van Loo, Environmental Compliance Specialist, Public Works Department, OK, 918-591-4379, email: svanlou@ci.tulsa.ok.us.

Additional Examples

Construction Sites Program, Lakewood, Colorado19

The City of Lakewood's construction site program is divided into several elements, including site planning, BMP, inspection and enforcement, and training and education. Currently the city is in the process of finalizing revisions to the existing protocol for the entire construction site program; however, compliance with the established program results in enforcement actions with respect to the proper installation of BMPs. In 1996, city staff conducted 91 inspections and issued 21 enforcement actions.

Contact: Alan Searcy, Stormwater Quality Coordinator, City of Lakewood, CO 303-987-7579, email: alans@lakewood.org.

Impact Assessments of Highway Construction, Texas Department of Transportation, University of Texas at Austin20

During the construction of a segment of highway that overlies a portion of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, a consent decree ordered the study of the water quality and quantity of highway runoff and construction effects on receiving waters. Results of the 1995 study, conducted by the Center for Research in Water Resources, indicate that during construction the biggest hindrance to erosion and sediment control is inadequate installation and maintenance of even the best controls. In order to have effective controls, researchers concluded that there should be adequate performance data on the temporary sediment controls, guidelines on proper installation and maintenance, as well as accurate prediction of the hydraulic properties of these materials.

Contact: Mike Barrett, Project Manager, Center for Research in Water Resources, University of Texas at Austin, 512-471-3131, email: mbarrett@mail.utexas.edu.

Detecting and Eliminating Improper or Illegal Connections and Discharges

Successful Collaboration

Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority 21
Population: 367,302
Area: 184 square miles

Highlight: A broad-based effort to eliminate illegal discharges--through inspections, education, citizen tips, enforcement, and making legal disposal of certain wastes easier--helped measurably reduce stormwater pollution at a low cost.

The city of Tulsa significantly reduced heavy metals, sediment, and other discharges through its stormwater program. One aspect of the program, identifying and eliminating illicit discharges, helped improve water quality with little capital spending. The city approached this issue from several angles, including public participation in identifying illicit connections and collecting household hazardous waste, and utilizing a local ordinance to enforce prohibition of illicit discharges.

Aggressive inspection is a key component of Tulsa's program. The city completed 164 investigations of possible illicit discharges during the 1997/1998 reporting year alone. During that same period, the Public Works Department (PWD) inspected 13,147 feet of storm sewer and 476,203 feet of sanitary sewer using TV and smoke inspection techniques. Repairs were then made to 189 main line storm sewers and 395 main line sanitary sewers, which stopped stormwater from infiltrating the sanitary sewers and vice versa. The city also performs industrial surveys to identify improper discharges. If a concern arises, the surveyor refers the problem to one of the inspectors. These efforts have been successful in identifying cross connections between storm and sanitary sewers, including 95 such connections in the Coal Creek drainage basin. While this has mostly helped to mitigate sanitary sewer overflows, the reduction of stormwater discharges to sanitary sewers has had a beneficial impact on water quality, including a reduction of pathogens in stormwater discharges.

To help identify and eliminate illicit discharges and improper disposal, the city performs dry weather field screening. The city uses the state's strictest designated use standard for each measured constituent to identify reportable conditions. During the 1997/1998 annual reporting period, 117 outfalls were screened, approximately 24.6 percent of Tulsa's stormwater system, bringing the total permit area screened to 86.2 percent since 1994. When an illicit discharge is identified, the responsible party is required to halt the discharge, redirect it to a sanitary sewer, or obtain an NPDES wastewater discharge permit from the U.S. EPA. These responses are enforceable under a city ordinance22 that allows for an expeditious schedule of compliance. All cleanup costs are the responsibility of the offender. The city took 20 enforcement actions during the 1997/1998 reporting period, five of which resulted in fines of up to $500 per day.

Tulsa emphasizes cooperation and public outreach as critical components in its effort to eliminate illicit discharges and improper disposal. By asking citizens and other city agencies, such as the fire and water departments, to be on the lookout for dry weather stormwater discharges and illicit connections, Tulsa effectively increased its inspection ability at little cost. The city educated citizens though utility bill stuffers, pamphlets, news articles, and public presentations. City personnel gain awareness through informal education and publications such as the city's annual report. Most are now aware of the procedures for reporting an incident. Complaints can be reported to the PWD directly or through the Mayor's Action Center. Public reporting accounts for a majority of inspections, with an average of 247 inspections per year -- an increase of 100 from the program's first year.

The floatables-reduction program also utilizes education and community participation. The Operation Cleansweep program brings citizens together to clean up designated basins, pick up roadside trash, and remove obstructions from channels. Operation Cleansweep organized 20,000 people into crews that removed over 107,000 bags of litter at various sites between April 20 and 27, 1997.

Other community involvement programs focusing on this issue were an environmental summit for middle and high school students, and a program called Pride Partners, which involves area businesses through clean ups, recycling, and donations. To help prevent pollution, Tulsa organized free dump days at the landfill and the collection/recycling of used motor vehicle fluids and household hazardous waste. These efforts were coordinated with the Metropolitan Environmental Trust (MET), which operates eleven 24-hour-a-day recycling depots around the city. To increase participation, Tulsa sponsors two collection days each year; 5,500 citizens participated during the 1996/1997 reporting year. Together, these efforts have resulted in the collection of approximately 50,000 gallons of oil, 4,400 gallons of antifreeze, 29,000 containers of paint, and 27,000 pounds of flammable liquid. Participants received educational material on the importance of recycling and using environmentally friendly alternatives to hazardous house old chemicals. MET also maintains a Web page for recycling and environmental education information.

The city recognizes the importance of inter-jurisdictional cooperation and is working closely with state agencies including the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department assisted the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (a co-permittee with Tulsa) by reinstating the Don't Lay the Trash on Oklahoma anti-litter campaign and the $1.1 million Oklahoma, Keep Our Land Grand multimedia advertising campaign. As part of the state's Blue Thumb campaign, volunteers have stenciled approximately 4,174 curbs near storm sewer inlets as of 1998. Blue Thumb is a state wide public education program, which originated in Tulsa by the Tulsa County Conservation District and Natural Resource Conservation Service, that draws attention to urban water quality through storm drain stenciling, seminars and short courses for members of the construction industry, and pesticide use education. The PWD allocates time for 10 staff members to be involved with Blue Thumb activities.

To help identify the effects of the overall stormwater program on water quality, Tulsa compared event mean concentrations of various parameters to results before implementation of the program (pre-permit). A summary of the findings is presented in the above table.

Contact: Scott Van Loo, Environmental Compliance Specialist, Public Works Department, OK, 918-591-4379, email: svanlou@ci.tulsa.ok.us.

ParameterAverage EMC
94/95–97/98 (mg/l)
Pre-Permit Results
Percent Reduction
COD66.570.2 5
Total Phosphorous0.2700.32517
* Four-Year Average of Event Mean Concentrations

Rating Storm Drains

Fort Worth, TX23
Population: 490,500
Area: 281 square miles

Highlight: Development of a field screening methodology allows effective targeting of an effort to eliminate illegal discharges.

From 1985 through 1989, Fort Worth, Texas, conducted an intensive campaign to eliminate illicit connections from its storm drain system. Inspectors eliminated over 300 discharges in those four years, using a method the city originally entitled "the search for undesirable features." Originally, the city's inspectors, ranging over the metropolis's 296 square miles, were tasked with a search-and-destroy mission for mosquitoes. When the storm drain team found many kinds of other pollution, ranging from an 11 story building's raw sewage to oil and grease from car repair shops, they searched for a state or federal program to help them eliminate these illegal discharges. Finding none, Fort Worth developed its own five-criterian rating index for storm drains and their immediate receiving streams: 1) presence/absence of certain types of aquatic organisms; 2) noxious odors and colors; 3) fish kills; 4) positive Nessler's reaction, which indicates the presence of ammonia; and 5) floatable materials or other visible evidence of sewage discharged directly into the stream or ditch. Once inspectors identified an illicit discharge, they traced it back to the source and initiated corrective actions. The results of this field screening determined both the priority of the illegal discharge and the likely appropriate response. This, in turn, supported the city's remediation and enforcement actions.

The resulting methodology was one of the factors that won Fort Worth a $100,000 award from the Ford Foundation's "Innovations in State and Local Governments" program. When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its stormwater permit guidance for large and medium municipalities in the early 1990s, the federal agency incorporated a variation of Fort Worth's multiple criterion "undesirable features" approach into a chemistry-based methodology to create the dry weather field screen. The resulting field screen is the technique that is used nationally to monitor for illicit discharges. Following Fort Worth's original approach even further, the North Central Texas regional stormwater program developed a simplified scoring system to use with the dry weather field screen in order to rank the outfalls. Several of the municipal participants also included one or more of Fort Worth's criteria in their ranking system.

Unfortunately, as local priorities shifted away from mosquito control and the associated storm drain surveillance program, Fort Worth's illicit connection program entered an eight-year downsizing that followed their successes in the late 1980s. Only a skeleton crew of three to five staff members were available to address a variety of water-quality issues in an urban area five times as large as Washington, DC. As the city's Phase I stormwater permit program began to develop in the mid-1990s, however, the city needed to engage in a wide variety of stormwater work, including the type of illicit connection work that it had been doing several years earlier. With Phase I in place, the city was able to restart its earlier screening program, already with success.

Because of their existing fee-based program, the Texas legislature allowed Fort Worth to charge local residences and businesses an "environmental fee" to cover the costs of stormwater-related efforts. The fee averages $0.50 per month for residences, $35.00 for industries, $10 for commercial properties, and $25 for multi-commercial properties. These fees raise approximately $2.5 million each year for stormwater-related activities.

As of 1997, the Environmental Management Department conducted 144 illegal spill or discharge investigations; of these, 46 required, and were issued, corrective notices. In almost every case, the violator took quick corrective action. (However, the city did have to go to court in two cases.) In 1997, the City's Water Department investigated and corrected 116 dry weather sewage overflows.

Contact: Brian Camp, Environmental Program Manager, City of Fort Worth Department of Environmental Management, TX, 817-871-5451, email: campb@ci.fort-worth.tx.us.

Additional Examples

Illicit Discharges Management Program, Denver, Colorado24

The city and county of Denver is developing a comprehensive Illicit Discharges Management Program that is divided into 10 elements ranging from prevention, screening, and inspections through public education. The city is in the process of inventorying all of the system's outfalls and developing priority screening protocol. Areas that need to be monitored more closely due to potentially high impact on water quality have been identified as South Platte River, Montebello/Havana Tributary, and Sand Creek.

Contact: Terry Baus, Program Manager, Department of Public Works Denver, CO, 303-446-3603, email: baustr@ci.denver.co.us.

Implementing Pollution Prevention for Municipal Operations

Constructed Wetland Becomes Outdoor Classroom

Jefferson County School District, Colorado and Denver Urban Resources Partnership 25
Population: 496,656
Area: 772 square miles

Highlight: A teacher's vision, some financial support, and a lot of student after-school hours turn a vacant school parking lot into a stormwater treatment system and outdoor classroom.

The Oberon Middle School constructed wetland project sets an example for local governments seeking new ways to manage stormwater on municipal grounds, with some value added. At the Oberon School, the school district, teachers, and students saw the Denver Urban Resources Partnership (DURP) as an opportunity to clean up and make use of an abandoned school bus parking lot and maintenance area. The Urban Resources Partnership is a federal program that grants money to community-led environmental projects; communities have developed more than 1,000 projects in 13 cities, using the money to restore, enhance, and protect local natural resources. Seventh and eighth graders helped develop an outdoor classroom that includes constructed wetlands and a pond that treat surface water runoff from the school's grounds and parking lot. Approximately 750 middle school students each year use the site as an outdoor classroom for science, math, language arts, and social studies activities.

The students set three goals for the project: 1) restore the site using native vegetation; 2) create an environment for future outdoor education; and 3) collect and treat irrigation and stormwater runoff from the school grounds. In the first year, students collected baseline data on plants, animals, and soils, and developed a plan for managing surface water runoff. With the help of DURP, students were able to construct the outdoor classroom and runoff treatment system within one school year, achieving all three of their goals.

Runoff from the 15-acre school grounds is directed to the constructed wetlands and pond for treatment. Most of the water is irrigation runoff, which is harvested for future irrigation. To date, runoff from all storm events has been retained for natural treatment before discharge to the city storm drain system. The functional benefits of the wetlands and pond have not been determined yet. However, project leaders anticipate full treatment potential of nitrates within three growing seasons, based on research and comparison with other constructed wetlands in similar climate.

The project got the entire community involved: Oberon school students worked as volunteers after school, teachers developed interdisciplinary teaching materials and conducted community outreach, high school students and parents helped during construction, and local businesses donated equipment and materials. Over 300 seventh graders helped plant 30 native plant species, turning an eyesore into a community asset and source of pride. Students gained an awareness of and appreciation for the function of wetlands and the importance of controlling runoff. They also learned about the processes, techniques, and issues associated with environmental restoration and natural water treatment.

Community members are pleased; they enjoy the increase in wildlife and like seeing the kids give something to the community while learning. The general public has learned from the project as well. Outreach efforts have included storm drain stenciling, and publications, and a local cable channel featured the project in a program about urban runoff. Oberon Middle School sees its success reaching beyond the outdoor classroom, serving as a reminder of what can be done, and hopefully stimulating the community to take on bigger problems in the future.

The project received the U.S. EPA's President's Environmental Youth Award and recognition as the Colorado Department of Education's Colorado Conservation School of the Year.

Contact: Chuck Clark, Oberon Middle School, Arvada, CO, 303-982-2020.

Monitoring to Preempt Problems*

Austin, TX26
Population: 465,622
Area: 218 square miles

Highlight: Extensive monitoring with federal, academic, and stormwater utility support provides data useful for designing a very broad stormwater program, and is helpful to many other cities.

Austin is a rapidly growing city that receives about 32 inches of rain a year, but can have prolonged dry periods that result in arid characteristics. Rapid growth in the mid-1970s resulted in increased flooding and erosion that threatened the city's drinking water supply. The separate storm drainage system discharges into several heavily urbanized streams, the Colorado River, and three large lakes, which comprise the local water supply. The Edwards Aquifer recharge zone underlies parts of Austin, making groundwater protection an additional important component of the local stormwater management efforts.

Austin, one of the earliest cities to enact comprehensive stormwater management regulations specifically to protect both surface and groundwater receiving water quality, has developed several major watershed ordinances and a stormwater utility. The objectives of the program are to preserve the natural and traditional character of the city's waterways, and to protect the water quality of the city's drinking water supply, the Edwards Aquifer, and the city's recreational and aesthetic resources.



+ NO3
Medium density, single-family170830.472.350.960.020.050.10
light industrial/utilities
Major roads/highways1431030.441.780.830.530.050.37
Source: Dr. Robert Pitt, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1999.

Austin has enacted three major watershed ordinances to achieve its goals. Some of the requirements are very specific, such as the requisite source controls as part of the Barton Springs ordinance. The stormwater management program is funded at about $8 million, with most funds coming from the stormwater utility.

The city has long conducted local monitoring activities. Starting in 1975, the city has worked with the USGS in a cooperative effort to evaluate stormwater from eight large, mixed-land-use watersheds. Starting in 1981, they also participated in the U.S. EPA's Nationwide Urban Runoff Program (NURP), when they monitored runoff from two residential areas and one undeveloped area. The city expanded its efforts in 1984 to include a total of 11 single-land-use areas, representing new development. They also monitor five additional single-land-use sites (older, existing areas) as part of the NPDES stormwater permit.

In 1989, Austin began a study to identify and quantify the critical pollutants and sources adversely affecting part of its water supply. The following table lists these pollutants, along with their removal goals, in order of decreasing importance:

  • nutrients (25–30%)
  • toxic metals (50%)
  • suspended solids (50%)
  • trash and debris (50–90%)
  • oil and grease (25%)

Concentration reduction efficiencies for various stormwater control devices have been extensively evaluated in Austin to support their stormwater management planning activities. The following table summarizes some of the expected concentration reductions for the flows being treated. Because some devices have significant bypasses of untreated stormwater due to clogging (especially in sand filters, due to inadequate maintenance), or because they are undersized (such as for oil/water separators), the actual annual pollutant removals may be substantially less. In addition, this table only reflects concentration reductions, and not the greater pollutant mass reductions associated with devices having significant infiltration benefits (such as those used for grassed waterways).

The Drainage Utility has found that the suspended solids removal cost in wet ponds is substantially less (<$1/lb) than for many other controls (>$5/lb for sand filters), mainly because of their higher removal rates and less costly maintenance. However, the benefits of numerous control practices throughout a watershed is not known.

Preferred stormwater management practices to meet the Austin stormwater regulations include sand filtration, wet detention ponds, re-use (local irrigation), and filter strips for water quality, and dry detention ponds for flood control. During 1992 and 1993, about 100 filtration systems, four wet detention ponds, four extended-period dry detention ponds, and 120 peak runoff control dry detention ponds were installed in the city. Austin has specifically monitored the performance of local stormwater control practices, and has been active in developing or modifying practices for enhanced performance for its climate and location. Other controls locally evaluated include porous pavements, grass filters, grass swales, oil/water separators, and combination devices using sedimentation and filtration.

In 1993, the Drainage Utility developed and implemented bioassessment techniques to compare streams having varying amounts of urbanization. As an example of their findings, they identified three dragonfly species that were useful in identifying degraded stream and pond conditions.


Percent Reduction

Wet pondSand filter
(no pretreat.)
Sand filter
(with pretreat.)
Dry pond
(concrete lined)
Dry pond
(earth/grass lined)
oil/water separator
Grassed waterway
Suspended solids93878957161768
Total P8761594936643
Source: Dr. Robert Pitt, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1999.

Contact: Roger Glick, Section Manager, Water Quality Monitoring, Watershed Protection Department, TX, 512-974-2096, email: roger.glick@ci.austin.tx.us.

* This case study was provided by Dr. Robert Pitt, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Additional Examples

Integrated Pest Management Program, Austin, Texas27

Austin established its IPM program in 1989 to reduce public exposure to chemicals reduce potential environmental impacts such as surface water and groundwater contamination and provide public notification of pesticide applications. Currently the city is undergoing a pilot program with the Parks and Recreation Department's golf courses. This pilot program includes monitoring for the presence of pests before application of pesticides and the use of alternatives to toxic chemical pesticides: biological, mechanical, or other nontoxic approaches.

Contact: John Gleason, IPM Coordinator, Environmental Resource Management Division, City of Austin Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, TX, 512-974-3543, email: john.gleason@ci.austin.tx.us.

Street Sweeping, Austin, Texas28

Austin's Street Sweeping program serves as one element of its water pollution control and abatement program. Each year the program cleans over 3,000 curb miles of streets in the city on a daily schedule downtown, and once per month in outlying areas. More than 25,000 cubic yards of trash, leaves, debris, and dirt are collected.

Contact: Ben Gonzalez, Solid Waste Services, City of Austin, TX, 512-494-9400, email: sws.pio@ci.austin.tx.us.

Public Street Maintenance, Lakewood, Colorado29

The City of Lakewood has a comprehensive road maintenance program that includes snow and ice management, salt and sand storage, herbicide use along roadways, sweeping and sweeping disposal protocol to effectively control discharges into the stormwater system. In 1996 the city pilot tested the use of Realite Plus, a 100 percent recyclable clay product, as an alternative to the salt and sand mixture. The sweeping program collected approximately 3,500 cubic yards of debris in 1996.

Contact: Alan Searcy, Stormwater Quality Coordinator, City of Lakewood, CO, 303-987-7579, email: alans@lakewood.org.

Watershed Approach to Water Quality, Fort Collins, Colorado30

The Stormwater Division recently implemented a Watershed Approach for water-quality management that made the transition from data collection and planning to implementing a system-wide program. The program includes the continuation of monitoring stormwater runoff and the development of specifications requiring treatment of runoff. Additionally, the city initiated a public education program in the schools to teach surface water pollution prevention in combination with hands-on science lessons on wetlands, streams, and ponds.

Contact: Water Utilities Department, City of Fort Collins, CO, 970-221-6700.


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2. Middleton, D. S., The Woodlands: Designed with Nature, Urban Land Institute http://www.uli.org/pubs/UrbLand/woodlands/woodlands.htm; Girling, C. L., "The Marketing of Recreation and Nature: The Woodlands, Texas Revisited," in R. G. Ribe, R. Z. Melnick, and K. K. Cairn, eds., Public Lands/scapes: Proceedings of the 1993 Conference of the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (Washington: Landscape Architecture Foundation, 1994); Juneja N. and J. Veltman, "Natural Drainage in the Woodlands," in J. T. Tourbier and R. Westmacott, eds., Stormwater Management Alternatives (Newark: University of Delaware Water Resources Center, 1980).

3. Apogee Research, Inc., 1994. Benefits of Storm Water Management: Case Studies of Selected Communities, Draft Final Report; Austin City Connection, The Central Park Wetponds, http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/erm/eccentral.htm; City of Austin, Part 2-NPDES Permit Application for Stormwater Discharge from the City of Austin, Texas, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, Environment and Conservation Services Department, Austin, Texas, 1992; Gosselink, L., Project Administrator, City of Austin, Texas, personal communications, July 20, 1998 and September 9, 1998; Tull, L. G., Manager Water Quality Management Section, Watershed Protection Department, City of Austin, Texas, personal communications, July 14 and July 17, 1998.

4. American Rivers, 1997 Urban Hometown River Awards factsheets, 1997.

5. Wenk Associates, Inc., promotional materials.

6. City of Fort Collins, Land Development Guidance System materials.

7. Murfee, G., J. Scaief, and M. Whelan, "A Better Best Management Practice." Water Environment & Technology, July 1997, pp. 45–48.

8. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Section 319 Success Stories: Volume II, EPA 841-R-97-001, October 1997, pp. 160–161; Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, A Green Guide to Yard Care, publication number GI-28, January 1998; Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, Statewide Urban Compost Educational Outreach Program: Final Report, September 1, 1994–August 31, 1995, undated; McCoy, S., Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, personal communication, February 24, 1998; Carter, B., Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, personal communication, January 26, 1999.

9. Apogee Research, Inc., April 1994, Benefits of Stormwater Management: Case Studies of Selected Communities; City of Boulder Public Works Department, 1997, Annual Report; Laninga, T., Stormwater Educator, Boulder Public Works Department, personal communications, July 22 and September 29, 1998; Scott, D., Stormwater Quality Program Coordinator, Boulder Public Works Department, personal communications, October 9, 1998; Stout, J., Field Specialist, Boulder Public Works Department, personal communication, September 30, 1998; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1995, TMDL Case Study: Boulder Creek, Colorado, EPA841-F-93-006, http://www/epa.gov/OWOW/tmdl/cs8/cs8.htm August 16, 1996; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, TMDL Case Study: Boulder Creek, Colorado, EPA841-F-93-006, http://www/epa.gov/OWOW/ tmdl/cs8/cs8.htm July 21, 1998.

10. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, TMDL Case Study: Boulder Creek, Colorado, EPA841-F-93-006, http://www/epa.gov/OWOW/tmdl/cs8/cs8.htm.

11. Apogee Research, Inc., 1994, Benefits of Stormwater Management: Case Studies of Selected Communities; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, TMDL Case Study: Boulder Creek, Colorado, EPA841-F-93-006. http://www/epa.gov/OWOW/tmdl/cs8/cs8.htm.

12. Gugliuza, M., City of Fort Worth, personal communication, September 25, 1998.

13. Delgaudio, D., Community Education and Gardening Coordinator, Colorado Springs Water Resources Department, personal communication, September, 1998.

14. Barth, C., "Toward a Low Impact Lawn." Watershed Protection Techniques, vol. 2, no., 1, Fall 1995, p. 256.

15. Bennett, D., City of Albuquerque Public Works Department, personal communications, August 27, 1998.

16. Welsch, P., City of Garland, personal communications, December 1997, January 1998, January 1999; Sharpe, T., Stormwater program coordinator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6, Dallas, Texas, personal communications, October 20 1998 and January 1999.

17. City of Tulsa, Environmental Services, 1997 Municipal Storm Water Discharge Permit Annual Report, July 1, 1996–June 30, 1997; Gray, S., M. Smoleni, C. Cheadle, L. Pollard, J. Myers, and J. Hassell, Blue Thumb—An Urban Watershed Success Story; http://www.epa.gov/OWOW/Watershed/Proceed/gray.html; March 23, 1998; Van Loo, Scott D., Environmental Compliance Specialist, Public Works Department, City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, personal communication, October 26, 1998.

18. Tulsa's Watershed Development Regulations, Title II-A, Chapter 3.

19. City of Lakewood, Public Works Department, CDPS Stormwater Permit Annual Report for 1996, April, 1996.

20. Barrett, M. E., J. F. Malina Jr., R. J. Charbeneau, and G. H. Ward, Water Quality and Quantity Impacts of Highway Construction and Operation: Summary and Conclusions, Center for Research in Water Resources, Bureau of Engineering Research, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, November 1995, 35 pp.

21. City of Tulsa, Environmental Services, 1997 Municipal Storm Water Discharge Permit Annual Report, July 1, 1996–June 30, 1997; Gray, S., M. Smoleni, C. Cheadle, L. Pollard, J. Myers, and J. Hassell, Blue Thumb—An Urban Watershed Success Story; http://www.epa.gov/OWOW/Watershed/Proceed/gray.html; March 23, 1998; Van Loo, S. D., Environmental Compliance Specialist, Public Works Department, City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, personal communication, October 20, 1998; Wilson, D., Environmental Monitoring Manager, Public Works Department, City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, personal communication, September 30, 1998.

22. Tulsa City Ordinance 18588.

23. Kennedy, K., North Central Texas Council of Governments, personal communication, October 29, 1997; Rattan, G., City of Fort Worth Environmental Management Department, personal communications, November 4, 1997 and December 4, 1997; City of Fort Worth Public Health Department, Operational Guide: City of Fort Worth Drainage Water Pollution Control Program (Part 1), 1991.

24. City and County of Denver, Department of Public Works, CDPS Stormwater Permit Annual Report for 1996, April, 1996.

25. Clark, C., Oberon Middle School, Arvada, Colorado, personal communication, November 16, 1998; Finstand, G., Natural Resources Conservation Service, personal communication, November 4, 1998; Oberon Middle School Web page, "The Outdoor Classroom," October 22, 1998,; Terrene Institute, "Urban Resources partnership Links People, Government, and Natural Resources," Nonpoint Source News-Notes, Alexandria, Virgina, September/October 1998, no. 53.

26. Barrett, M. E., P. M. Walsh, M. V. Keblin, and J. F. Malina, "Performance comparison of highway BMPs," Watershed Management: Moving from Theory to Implementation, May 3–6, 1998, pp. 401–408, Water Environment Federation, 1998; City of Austin Drainage Utility, personal communications, 1998; Diniz, E.V., "Hydrologic and water quality comparisons of runoff from porous and conventional pavements," Integrated Stormwater Management, Lewis Publishers, 1993; Glick, R., G. Chang, and M. E. Barrett, "Monitoring and evaluation of stormwater quality control basins," Watershed Management: Moving from Theory to Implementation, May 3–6, 1998, pp. 369–376, Water Environment Federation, 1998; Hansen, R., "Bioassessment for intermittent central Texas streams." In: Effects of Watershed Development and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems, Proceedings of an Engineering Foundation conference, Snowbird, Utah, August 4–9, 1996; ASCE, New York, pp. 57–68. 1997; Pantalion, J., A. Scharlach, and G. Oswalk, "Urban retrofit BMPs in Austin, Texas," Water Environment Federation 68th Annual Conference & Exposition, Miami Beach, Florida, October 21–25, 1995; Surface Water Quality and Ecology, pp. 531–538; 1995; Schueler, T., "Developments in sand filter technology to improve stormwater runoff quality," Watershed Protection Techniques, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 47–54, Summer 1994; Schueler, T. R., "First flush of stormwater pollutants investigated in Texas," Watershed Protection Techniques, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 88–90, Summer 1994; Trevino, J., "Dragonflies naids as an indicator of pond water quality," Watershed Protection Techniques, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 533–535, June 1997; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Handbook: Urban runoff Pollution Prevention and Control Planning, EPA-625-R-93-004, Office of Research and Development, Cincinnati, Ohio, September 1993; Watershed Management Institute, Inc., Institutional Aspects of Urban Runoff Management, Region 5, U.S. EPA. Chicago, Illinois, 1997.

27. Gleason, J., Austin Watershed Protection Program, personal communication, July 21, 1998 and November 12, 1998.

28. City of Austin, Environmental and Conservation Services Department, NPDES Permit Application for Stormwater Discharge from the City of Austin, Texas, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, November, 1992

29. City of Lakewood, Public Works Department, CDPS Stormwater Permit Annual Report for 1996, April, 1996.

30. City of Fort Collins, Water Utilities, Fort Collins Water Utilities 1996 Annual Report, 1996.

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