Before there were roads, parking lots, and other hard “impervious” surfaces that water can’t penetrate, rainwater and melting snow would mostly seep into the ground, recharging aquifers. During times of low precipitation, this ground water would slowly seep into rivers and streams, maintaining a base level of streamflow even in summer and providing a reliable source of drinking water even when it didn’t rain.
Modern development brought more impervious surfaces ranging from streets and parking lots to the roofs and driveways of our own homes. The flow of water after storms changed dramatically:
Rather than seep into the ground to recharge aquifers, water runs off the surfaces, picking up oil, grit, pet waste, trash and other pollutants, and into the nearest stream.
The new rules are part of the Clean Water Act, and while the new rules were just recently issued, the government is allowing towns two years to provide plans for complying. The new rules will reduce this pollution by getting more of the runoff back into the ground. There, it is cleaned naturally, it seeps into streams slowly like it used to do, and it maintains aquifers for our drinking water.
Public education and NSRWA
In addition to cleaning stormwater catch basins, using new porous surfaces that water can pass through and into the ground, and many other structural requirements, the new rules require that municipalities increase their public education efforts. Two constituencies that towns must reach are their residential and business communities.
NSRWA can help. We worked with Scituate to educate residents about water conservation, and our town-supported Greenscapes program already takes conservation education into eleven South Shore communities. We have initiated our first water-use education program focused on our South Shore business community, WaterSmart Business.
We believe it is a natural fit for NSRWA to expand these local partnerships, and contract with communities to help educate residents and businesses about both water conservation and polluted runoff.