When creeks, rivers, and the bay ran clear, full of shellfish and finfish, the watershed was 95% forested. Leaves, branches, roots, and leaf mulch absorbed the rain.
Now we have covered the ground with buildings, parking lots, ans treets, and the rain cannot enter the ground.
Rain flows into storm sewers, which empty into creeks and rivers through huge pipes carrying as many as 70 potential carcinogens cars and fertilizers from lawns and farms--eroding creeks and depositing thousands of sediments into rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
EPA studies show in one year uncontrolled runoff from streets, roofs, and parking lots washes more than
Instead of fishable, swimable creeks, we have algae blooms and impaired biological life.
In the 80s, State regulations tried to address the problem by requiring stormwater ponds to capture runoff from large storms, not realizing that 90% are small storms. Anne Arundel County, Maryland, required over 1,100 stormwater ponds, like the one shown at left. Their large outlet pipes let overheated water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and pollutants run straight into the waterways.
What we are beginning to do is restorations which recreate natural systems to clean, cool, and infiltrate the rain. School children help plant and monitor their success. Each such restoration costs between $200,000 and $500,000.
We can each help solve the problems casued by urban stormwater runoff. We can ask our council members to introduce legislation to establish a stormwater utility, a dedicated enterprise fund similar to those billed for sewer, water, and trash.
Such a fund could charge a $5/month fee for impervious surface per 2,400 sf unit (e.g., small house and driveway) and could collect $35 million a year for countywide restoration. The council would hear public restoration requests, establish priorities, and receive annual reports on restoration results.
Over 500 such stormwater utilities are up and running and soon there will be 2,000 across the Country. The Maryland Department of Environment has encouraged such utilities since 1988. Takoma Park, Maryland has had one for many years; Montgomery County, Maryland for 4 years, and Anne Arundel County, Maryland for 2 years. Baltimore City and County, Maryland are moving in this direction.