Author: Anna McGeehan

The Triangle: Best Place to Live, Work, Play… and Innovate for Water Quality Protection?

North Carolina’s Research Triangle has for years been featured on the list of seminal bests. Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill are some of the most educated, economically prosperous, family friendly, sustainable, and high-performing cities in the country. The area is even known for happy marriages, rockin’ music scenes, and tasty food. All of these distinctions have helped the Triangle, particularly Raleigh, achieve prominent spots on Forbes 2014 list of America’s fastest-growing cities.

These great features have drawn hundreds of thousands of new residents to the Triangle and its surrounding regions. Researchers at the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC Charlotte estimate that the population in the Triangle and Rocky Mount areas grew by more than 1 million between 1976 and 2005, a surge of nearly 90 percent. During that time, RENCI found that land development increased nearly 570 percent, from 39,743 developed acres to 264,883 developed acres.

This rapid urbanization has significantly impacted surface water quality in nearby Jordan and Falls Lake and the Upper Neuse River Basin. The 2009 Jordan and Falls Lake clean up rules are estimated to total $750 million and $1.5 billion, respectively. Though the rules have been delayed, larger cities such as Cary, Apex, Morrisville, and Durham could bear the brunt of these costs. The Upper Neuse River Basin rules also place nutrient reduction limits on new development in Durham, Johnston, Orange, Wake, and Wayne counties.

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Watershed Finance: Promoting Watershed Protection Finance Strategies through Effective and Transparent Communication Tools

NC RiverThe challenges associated with designing and implementing water conservation finance strategies are multifaceted. First, stakeholders must agree on the initial environmental problem and forge an agreement of action. Second, participants must identify who should pay for protection efforts and where the money will come from. Third, local governments and utility mangers must be able to anticipate how different funding strategies will impact residents and non-residents. And fourth, officials must be able to communicate all of this information to stakeholders clearly, effectively, and transparently.

Nowhere are these challenges more at play than in efforts to clean up the Upper Neuse River Basin (UNRB) located in North Carolina’s piedmont region. Continue reading

Downstream Thinking: National and Regional Trends in Green Infrastructure

8183599860_f79c2ac63a_zBy Anna McGeehan

“We all live downstream.” In the world of stormwater management, this concept is particularly relevant. Polluted waterways have far-reaching impacts for us all. Increased flooding, higher water treatment costs, strain on existing infrastructure, beach closures, and decreased biodiversity all pose significant and costly threats to communities, towns, cities, and states.

Green Infrastructure (GI), an alternative to traditional urban growth designs, is receiving considerable attention as a cost-effective way to reduce pollution, manage stormwater runoff, improve water quality, and maximize infrastructure investments. GI is an affordable mitigation strategy that uses a variety of techniques, such as native vegetation, rain gardens, bioswales, or porous pavement, to add unique aesthetic value to new or revitalized development site. The EFC’s comprehensive catalog of over 50 GI publications highlights several cities that are leading the country through their use of innovative, comprehensive, and effective GI strategies.

However, outside of these featured case studies, GI projects remain largely piecemeal and single-scale. Further, the EFC’s review of GI literature reveals that there is a perception among many local communities that GI technologies are still emerging and lack a prescriptive framework, and that they can be cost-prohibitive when compared to the traditional pipe and treatment design.

With these concerns in mind, many communities interested in GI are left wondering, “What might a Green Infrastructure project look like in this community?”
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