In March 2016, the EPA’s Office of Research and Development published a report that discusses EPA’s views on how the management of stormwater will change in response to the impact of climate change. Climate change (e.g., the amount, timing, and intensity of rain events, droughts, and other extreme events), along with land use changes (e.g., development) can affect the amount of stormwater runoff to be managed. The stated goal of the report is to provide local decision-makers with more information on how to adapt local stormwater management planning and stormwater control to account for these changes.

The report identifies four important themes that EPA believes stormwater managers and planners should be aware of and attempt to incorporate into future planning. Each of these areas includes challenges, potential near-term solutions, and long-term need.

  1. Incorporate climate change into planning. Applying relevant climate change information into planning be a challenge, specifically when considering uncertainty in climate change projections. The report identifies how existing historical data can be better used, and ways to enhance data collection to support future decision making.
  2. Build local capacity. Local capacity to plan for, design, construct, and permit green infrastructure and other alternative management strategies to increase resilience is necessary. Planning and implementing these types of solutions in the short-term is important. In the longer-term, more novel watershed-scale solutions such as regional stormwater model ordinances and federal- or state-level regulatory changes will become critical.
  3. Identify and communicate costs and benefits of green infrastructure. Stormwater managers and planners currently have limited economic information on implementing green infrastructure projects. Consequently, it has been challenging to quantify and articulate the benefits of green infrastructure. However, many groups are working to change this. For example, Lexington’s revised stormwater manual, set to be released in October 2016, includes design and construction standards for green infrastructure. The manual identifies different green infrastructure options and provides a description of each with environmental benefits, allowable locations, site design requirements, and maintenance needs.
  4. Implementation within current governance structure. Existing priorities and regulatory requirements can be a barrier to including climate change into planning and decision making. As discussed above, Lexington’s revised stormwater manual will allow for easier implementation of green infrastructure in Lexington. The manual was not specifically revised to address the issue of climate change, but indirectly it will address the impacts. Moving forward, implementation of solutions to address the impact of climate change will likely require interagency or interjurisdictional coordination, both directly or indirectly.

William Shane is an Environmental Engineer at Smith Management Group. William can be reached at williams@smithmanage.com.