Academic journal article Sustainability : Science, Practice, & Policy

An Evaluation of the Stormwater Footprint Calculator and the Hydrological Footprint Residence for Communicating about Sustainability in Stormwater Management

Academic journal article Sustainability : Science, Practice, & Policy

An Evaluation of the Stormwater Footprint Calculator and the Hydrological Footprint Residence for Communicating about Sustainability in Stormwater Management

Article excerpt

Introduction

The construction of new buildings, infrastructure, and public utilities for urbanization alters landscapes and converts natural land cover to impervious areas. These areas, in turn, generate large volumes of stormwater runoff that directly affect receiving bodies of water by causing flooding, erosion, and degradation of in-stream ecosystem habitats (Leopold, 1968; Richter et al. 1996; Roesner et al. 2001; USEPA, 2004a, 2004b). Centralized infrastructure, such as detention ponds, may be constructed to manage increased runoff through storing and slowly releasing large volumes of water. Detention ponds, however, have limited capabilities in restoring comprehensive natural flow regimes and require valuable land (McCuen, 1979; Roesner et al. 2001). Low Impact Development (LID) is an alternative stormwater-management strategy that allows rainwater to infiltrate the ground closer to where it falls and may improve local hydrology (USEPA, 2000).

LID technologies, such as green roofs, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavements, and rain gardens, are typically designed for decentralized placement at individual lots or neighborhoods. They reduce runoff by increasing infiltration and flow paths at the source of generation, such as parking lots, buildings, roadways, and sidewalks. Because LIDs must be implemented close to these individual infrastructure components, they are typically placed on private properties or within neighborhoods. Because they are decentralized and distributed at many locations throughout a community, a large number of individual citizens or neighborhood organizations may be actively involved in their implementation. Local utilities, therefore, rely on public engagement and property owners to bear the costs (Keeley, 2007).

To encourage the adoption of LID technologies, policy makers, planners, and builders need outreach tools that will inform and educate the public (Keeley, 2007). Communities may benefit from cost savings that emerge from decentralized management. Implementation of LID technologies at the lot or neighborhood level can reduce community expenses, through taxes or service fees, to maintain, to update, and to replace extensive centralized infrastructure. The adoption and performance of decentralized infrastructure systems, however, depends on public participation in small infrastructure development (Rojanamon et al. 2012), and low awareness and resistance to change among the general public can impede sustainable stormwater management (Roy et al. 2008). Local stormwater utilities have had only limited success in motivating homeowners to install stormwater technologies on individual lots (Marsalek & Chocat, 2002; Thurston et al. 2003; Braden & Johnston, 2004; Thurston, 2006). These techniques are controversial and may require new initiatives by utilities and local governments because they deviate from the conventional approach to stormwater management, which uses an end-of-pipe centralized design (Coffman et al. 1999; USEPA, 2000). Although some site-specific LID projects have been successfully implemented and monitored in the United States, for example in Philadelphia (Landers, 2009), Chicago (Dreher, 2009), and the Woodlands (near Houston) (Yang & Li, 2010), lot-level LID technologies have not gained widespread adoption in the United States or abroad (Roy et al. 2008; Ahiablame et al. 2012).

A necessary step in improving public acceptance of LID is to raise awareness of threats to stormwater sustainability by educating citizens about the risks of urbanization and the potential benefits of using LID approaches (Dietz et al. 2002; Prokopy et al. 2009; Shaw et al. 2011). However, communicating this information involves complex scientific and engineering concepts. To convey the importance of individual decisions on flooding and the sustainability of local water bodies to lay audiences, we developed and tested a new educational tool, the Stormwater Footprint Calculator (SFC). …

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