Friday, January 13, 2012

New York City's stormwater-management rules upgraded: Can Fayetteville match the NYC model?

New York City's Urban GreenCouncil (a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council) Web site celebrates advances in Department of Environmental Protection stormwater rules.

Stormwater Management As Mother Nature Intended

January 11, 2012 | By Russell Unger
The same day last week the City Council helped us all breathe easier with a new law on chemicals in carpets, the Department of Environmental Protection released its new stormwater rule that encourages natural rainwater detention and retention, along with accompanying design guidelines. “Natural” here is not being used like the labels on cleaning products – here we are talking about honest to goodness mother nature. Rather than send rainwater to concrete tanks, sewers, and treatment plants, the new DEP rule encourages onsite reuse and natural infiltration.
It’s hard to overstate how much of a “180” this rule and the Green Infrastructure Plan represents for DEP, at least in terms of the principles involved. Until very recently, the only stormwater approach that mattered to DEP’s water engineers were those that could be measured in tanks and pipes. While we all know rainwater can be absorbed in the ground, directed into a rain barrel, and retained by a green roof, it wasn’t that easy to measure this capture. So it didn’t count at all for DEP. It does now.
The new rule is not a panacea for those who favor green infrastructure but is still a big step forward. The rule drastically reduces the allowable runoff from new construction and major reconstruction (a 90% reduction from previous limits). DEP will consider a range of approaches to reduce runoff including vegetative cover, green roofs, and permeable pavement. It will also consider open-bottomed detention systems that allow infiltration. Owners are required to provide maintenance for these systems so they work as intended. And finally, new developments next to a waterway must send rainwater into the waterway (rather than the sewer system).
Taken together, this rule implements 4 Task Force recommendations:
  • SW 2: Reduce Stormwater Runoff From New Developments
  • SW 4: Send Rainwater to Waterways
  • SW 5: Encourage Innovative Stormwater Practices
  • SW 6: Maintain Site-Based Stormwater Detention Systems
Another good day for green codes and a great way to kick off the New Year!

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