Use green development to save money and energy

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., Manager for Watershed Partnerships

Last month we discussed how green development can reduce flooding, save money, reduce energy use, and improve public health. This month we want to key in on a few of the more popular green development practices and their incentives.

Rain gardens filter out pollutants and allow about 30 percent more water to soak into the ground than a patch of lawn.

Rain gardens filter out pollutants

Studies show that up to 70 percent of the pollution in our streams and rivers is carried there by stormwater. Rain gardens help filter out stormwater pollution before it flows into streams and rivers.

Rain gardens:

  • Feature attractive landscaping with perennial native plants.
  • Are designed to absorb stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs and parking lots.
  • Allow water to slowly filter into the ground rather than run off to storm drains.
  • Allow about 30 percent more water to soak into the ground compared to a patch of lawn.
  • Come in a variety of sizes from small or large home-owner style gardens to complex bioretention gardens, and anything in between.
  • Can be bowl-shaped or saucer-shaped gardens.

Rain gardens are particularly effective at reducing solids and nutrients – like nitrogen and phosphorus – in stormwater runoff from residential yards and parking lots. Research done by the Center for Watershed Protection found that bioretention facilities installed in parking lots reduced total phosphorous in runoff by 65 percent, total nitrogen by 49 percent, and metals by 95-97 percent.

MCD helped install rain gardens in several locations to demonstrate their effectiveness:

  • City of Springfield
  • City of Brookville Wenger Woods neighborhood
  • Heritage Park in Hamilton County
  • Preble County Historical Society

Pavers last decades longer than traditional asphalt and concrete driveways.

Pervious pavers absorb rain and snow

Pervious pavers are an alternative to a traditional asphalt or concrete driveway.

When stormwater flows over lawns and concrete driveways, it can carry with it chemicals, fertilizers, sediment and oils, which can degrade the quality of water running into storm sewers. Pervious pavers help slow polluted stormwater runoff, allowing the water to soak into the aquifer instead of flowing off the land and into rivers and streams.

Paver driveways and walkways allow rain and snowmelt to soak through the cracks between each paver so that water doesn’t pond during a rainstorm, and ice doesn’t form in the winter.

While concrete or asphalt surfaces may require a lower initial investment, paver systems are known to last decades longer. They also require little maintenance because they aren’t prone to cracking. When pavers need repaired, only the damaged section needs to be replaced, not the entire surface.

MCD uses pervious pavers to increase infiltration and slow runoff at its headquarters building in downtown Dayton. MCD also helped install pervious pavers at several homes in the City of Brookville’s Wenger Woods neighborhood.

Green roofs have been widely used in Europe for centuries but are still catching on in the U.S.

Green roofs mitigate heat and improve air quality

Green roofs, which are made from natural plant material, have natural thermal insulation properties that keep structures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Green roofs are a layer of light weight vegetation that is installed over a roof membrane. They offer features and benefits not present in a conventional membrane roof such as:

  • The vegetation and soil layers protect the waterproof membrane from solar exposure, prolonging roof membrane life.
  • The soil provides additional insulation and shades the roof from solar heat gain.
  • Environmental benefits – including stormwater filtration, heat island mitigation, improved air quality and increased wildlife habitat.

Green roofs have been used in Europe for centuries, but are still catching on in popularity here. They are particularly cost-effective:

  • In dense urban areas where land values are high.
  • On large industrial or office buildings where stormwater management costs are likely to be high.

MCD helped install green roofs on several modular homes in the Canal Block Litehouse Development in downtown Dayton. Green roofs are also in use on top of Dayton’s city hall building and Springfield Regional Medical Center.

How you can help

Your community can encourage the installation of green practices – like the three listed above – by updating your development policies to encourage builders to think green.

An easy way to get started is to host a Site Planning Roundtable that brings together local leaders from government, development, and natural resources. MCD staff can, in partnership with local sponsors, assist communities during all phases of the Site Planning Roundtable. Call me at 937-223-1278 ext. 3244 and let’s get started!

Green development could mean green backs for your community

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Could your land use plan be holding back your community?

It could if you’re not focusing on balancing water protection with land development.

This region is averaging about 4 more inches of precipitation per year than it did 30 years ago. Stronger storms, heavier rainfalls and destructive erosion are becoming more common. Just a few weeks ago, the region experienced a new record for rainfall for June 14, from 1.29 inches that day to 2.68 inches, according to a Dayton Daily News story.

This region now averages about 4 more inches of precipitation per year than it did 30 years ago.

Businesses looking to grow or relocate want to be sure flooding isn’t an issue. Communities now more than ever need to focus on protecting their water, and mitigating flooding and peak flows.

Studies show green development practices can save money 

According to a 2010 study by the American Society of Landscape Architects, governments are wasting billions of dollars a year by not going green. The report looked at 479 case studies of green development projects around the U.S. and found that in more than 73 percent of the cases, the environmentally friendly solution cost the same or less than traditional development.
According to the study, green development practices:

  • Not only cost less, but these practices can further reduce costs of treating large amounts of polluted runoff.
  • Can help municipalities reduce energy expenses.
  • May reduce flooding and related flood damage.
  • Improve public health — reducing bacteria and pollution in rivers and streams, preventing gastrointestinal illnesses in swimmers and boaters.

Seattle Public Utilities found that using grassed channels; combined with narrowing the roadway, eliminating traditional curb and gutter, and placing sidewalks on only one side of the street garnered a cost savings for the city of 15–25 percent, or $100,000 – $235,000 per block, as compared to conventional stormwater control design (Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2010).

One study found that using green development practices saved 15 to 20 percent in stormwater control costs.

 

Land Use Planning to protect water and maximize economic opportunity

MCD can help communities that want to integrate water protection into their land use plans, zoning code, and subdivision regulations. Amending local codes and ordinances is an important first step to achieving a balance between protecting water and promoting economic development.

Communities often find that their existing development policies conflict with the goal of water protection. For instance, current design calls for

  • Wide streets
  • Expansive parking lots
  • Large-lot subdivisions

Massive parking lots are impenetrable, creating a barrier to groundwater recharge.

All of these create excessive impervious cover, increase flood risk in low lying areas, and provide little room for green space and a natural environment. Incentives for developers to conserve natural areas and consider water protection are generally few and far between.

So what’s the answer?

Better Site Design is an approach to both residential and commercial development that is intended to:

  • Reduce flood risk.
  • Help comply with stormwater regulations.
  • Increase groundwater recharge.
  • Improve stormwater filtration.
  • Reduce erosive flows to streams and rivers.

All of the above can save your community money and create a more marketable product.

Pervious pavers like this driveway in Brookville reduce stormwater runoff and last years longer than concrete. 

How MCD can help

Using a Site Planning Roundtable, MCD staff can guide a community through a consensus process, bringing together local leaders from government, development, and natural resources.

Together, we’ll create development policies that balance water protection and economic development for your community.

The local roundtable will:

  • Identify existing development rules.
  • Compare them to the principles of Better Site Design.
  • Determine if changes can or should be made to current codes and ordinances.
  • Negotiate and reach consensus on what the changes should be.

Let’s get started!

MCD, in partnership with local sponsors, can assist communities during all phases of the Site Planning Roundtable. Call me at 937-223-1278 ext. 3244 and let’s get started!

MCD has its eye on water

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

Did you know MCD tracks precipitation, groundwater levels, and flow in rivers and streams?

This information helps MCD and its partner agencies with flood forecasting, groundwater quantity monitoring, and understanding water movement into and out of the Great Miami River Watershed.

Here’s what we tracked in 2016 and what we’ve seen in 2017.

Water in 2016

  • Precipitation for the year was right around 37 inches or about 2.5 trillion gallons of water.
    • Average annual precipitation for the Miami Valley is about 43 inches.
  • Precipitation was below average eight of 12 months in 2016.
    • August was a notable exception with nearly 6 inches of rain. The average for that month is a little more than 3 inches.
  • Runoff from the Great Miami River Watershed into the Ohio River was about 12 inches or 823 billion gallons of water. Runoff includes water from rainfall and groundwater water that seeps into the river.
    • Average annual runoff is about 15 inches.
  • Water levels in the buried valley aquifer began the year near average at most observation wells. They declined to below-average levels during the summer and then returned to average levels in the fall.
  • Water recharge to Miami Valley aquifers averaged a little more than 6 inches or about 411 billion gallons.
    • Average annual recharge for the watershed is around 8 inches. Despite the lower average for 2016, the region has an abundance of groundwater.

What are we seeing in 2017?

We’re not even halfway through the year, and precipitation and runoff are trending above average. At the end of May, MCD had recorded nine high water events this year, which is above average for the entire year. MCD recorded only five high water events during all of 2016.

MCD defines a high water event as a time when:

  • Any single dam goes into storage, meaning the elevation of the water upstream of the dam exceeds the top of the dam’s conduit.
  • Or the river at any of our cities reaches an “action stage” as defined by the MCD Emergency Action Plan, such as closing a floodgate.

All of the dams except Huffman Dam have stored floodwaters at least once this year:

  • Germantown Dam – 7 storage events
  • Englewood Dam – 9 storage events
  • Lockington Dam – 1 storage event
  • Taylorsville Dam – 1 storage event

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ohio River Forecast Center, there’s an equal chance of above- or below-average precipitation for the next three months. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

Regional trails draw worldwide attention

By Angela Manuszak, Special Projects Coordinator

Many everyday items that make life easier were invented in the Dayton region. The airplane. The pop-top can. The cash register. Dayton is also home to some pretty amazing, more natural creations, too, namely, our rivers – and the hiking and biking trails near them. And while our trails don’t get the same attention as the airplane or the cash register, our regional trails are about to get noticed in a big way.

The American Trails’ International Trails Symposium heads to the Dayton region, May 7-10. The ITS is a biennial symposium that brings together the worldwide trails community to experience regional trails and advocate for the economic and environmental power of trails.

But what’s so special about our rivers and trails?

With 340 miles of trails to explore, this region boasts the largest, paved trail network in the country

Contiguous land ownership

MCD owns extensive and contiguous riverfront land in cities along the Great Miami River as part of its flood protection system. It also preserved floodplains at each of its five dry dams. Upstream of each dam are vast tracts of land meant to flood occasionally so downstream cities don’t. MCD’s first chief engineer, Arthur Morgan, persuaded the MCD Board of Directors to open thousands of acres of the “retarding basins” to the public.

Today, each dam’s forested greenspaces are wrapped with hiking trails, traversed by bike trails, dotted with picnic areas, then splashed with river launch ramps – all managed in partnership with county park districts, especially Five Rivers MetroParks.

In the 1970s, a grassroots effort to build a paved, connected trail on MCD’s riverfront property led to the first major segment of trail – an 8-mile loop on both banks of the Great Miami River in Dayton. While flood protection remains the highest purpose of the land, trails are a compatible use that has transformed our region. The Great Miami River Bike Trail now has a total of nearly 80 miles completed, and new sections will be constructed before 2020. Other trails – built by MCD partners and colleagues — radiate like bike wheel spokes from Dayton in every direction.

The Buckeye Trail is one of many hiking trails throughout the region.

Recognition
Every year the trail network’s fame grows. MCD’s trails:

  • Host part of the North Country and Buckeye trails.
  • Have been named National Recreation Trails.
  • Are designated to carry part of US Bike Route 50 across the state.

Connect several sites of the National Aviation Heritage Area.

The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers, along with Greenville, Buck and Twin creeks are the only nationally designated water trail in Ohio and one of only 22 in the country. The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers also are a state designated water trail.

State and national designated water trails

Our rivers are getting plenty of attention, too. Last year, the Great Miami, Mad and Stillwater rivers along with Greenville, Buck and Twin creeks were designated the first and only National Water Trail in the state of Ohio. The national water trail designation by the U.S. Department of Interior is given only to those water trails that are exemplary. The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers also are state-designated water trails.

Soon the world will know
With all of the amazing trails nearby, no wonder American Trails chose the Dayton region for its 2017 ITS. We are proud to join the list of celebrated trail cities that have hosted this conference in the past, including: Portland, Oregon; Tucson; Chattanooga; Austin; and Orlando. We hope you will join us for the symposium or one of the related events open to the public. Go to americantrails.org to learn more.

 

Private Wells – Test for a silent killer

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

There may a silent killer lurking in private wells used for drinking water. Recent groundwater studies in our region show that drinking water in up to 20 percent of private wells contains high levels of arsenic.

Long-term exposure to arsenic through drinking water is associated with multiple serious health problems. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, linked to cancers of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate gland.

Skin lesions caused by arsenic poisoning

In addition, exposure to arsenic interferes with the immune system, impacts cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, and hormonal processes, and may be a contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Elevated arsenic not uncommon in regional groundwater

Arsenic is an element and a minor component of the rock and soil present in local aquifers. Under the right conditions groundwater dissolves arsenic in the aquifer and carries it into wells. Public water systems must test for arsenic. If arsenic levels are high, they are required to remove it.

Unlike public water supplies, private wells usually are not routinely tested.

Drinking water comes from a private well? Get your water tested.

How can you tell if your well water has high arsenic levels in it? You can’t, not without a laboratory test. That’s why I urge well owners who use their wells for drinking water to get their water tested. A laboratory test will typically cost anywhere from $20 to $25. If you use a private well for drinking water, it’s important to test your water for arsenic. If you don’t, you run the risk of consuming drinking water with elevated levels of arsenic.

Removing arsenic

Removing arsenic from drinking water can be complex. In general, there are two major categories of removal systems, point of use (POU) and whole-house. POU arsenic removal systems remove arsenic at a single tap where the water is consumed. POU arsenic removal systems do not remove arsenic throughout the entire house. Whole-house arsenic removal systems remove arsenic at the point where water enters the house, distributing treated water throughout the entire house.

Point of use system installed under a kitchen sink. The system is a single tap reverse osmosis unit.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and MCD found the effectiveness of treatment systems in removing arsenic is largely dependent upon the arsenic level in the untreated water. The higher the arsenic level in the well, the less effective arsenic removal systems tended to be. Fortunately, studies of our regional aquifers show that most water has arsenic levels that can be removed with arsenic removal systems that are available on the market.

Currently, there are two labs in our area that will test your water. Call them for fees and more information:

Montgomery County Environmental Laboratory
4257 Dryden Road, Dayton, OH 45439
(937) 781-3016

Pace Analytical Services, Inc. – Dayton
25 Holiday Drive, Englewood, OH 45322
(800) 723-5227

 Other resources to help you understand how to test your well water

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has a website with contact information about state-certified labs that can help with testing. Heidelberg University also offers testing services.

The Ohio State University (OSU) also offers an on-line tool to help you understand the test results. The OSU site offers a lot of information for well owners.

Top 5 Regional Water Challenges for the 21st Century

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

You may have heard me say this before—southwest Ohio is water rich. We have abundant, high-quality, water when compared with other parts of our country and the world.

Yet, our region is not without challenges in managing water. Here are five water trends that may pose challenges to our community leaders for the foreseeable future.

Precipitation and runoff are trending up

Our region is getting wetter. Mean annual precipitation and runoff (the amount of water that drains off land) in the region are trending up. In the 1960s, mean annual precipitation was around 37 inches per year. Today, mean annual precipitation is a little over 41 inches. That‘s an increase of about 4 inches per year. Not surprisingly, mean annual runoff shows a similar trend.Precipitation trending up chart

These trends are good news and bad news at the same time. The good news from a water quantity perspective is our region isn’t likely to experience any long-term water shortages given current water uses. The bad news is our region could experience more frequent flooding outside of areas protected by The Miami Conservancy District (MCD). One thing that’s clear is communities will likely deal with more frequent and intense rain events in the future.

Water use is trending down

According to data compiled by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, water use for things such as drinking water, manufacturing, and irrigation are declining. Total ground and surface water used in the area that drains to the Great Miami River peaked in the early 2000s at slightly fewer than 600 million gallons of water per day. Water use is currently at about 300 million gallons per day

Water trend usage chartThe decline in water use is a result of several factors, including more water-efficient plumbing fixtures, increased efficiencies in industrial water use, a regional decline in manufacturing, and the closure of the DP&L Hutchings Station power plant.

Declining water use poses a challenge for many local water utilities struggling to maintain sufficient revenues to deal with rising infrastructure costs. In the past, water systems often made their financial projections based upon an assumption of rising water demand. This assumption is no longer valid. And yet, public water system infrastructure must be maintained if we want to have safe drinking water. Some water utilities may need to restructure rates to ensure sufficient revenues.

Nutrient levels in rivers and streams remain too high

Algal bloom on Great Miami River

2012 algal bloom on the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton

Nitrogen and phosphorus levels in many area rivers and streams are too high and affect aquatic life. The most common sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are agricultural fertilizers and human sewage. When nitrogen and phosphorus are present in water at high levels, they fuel excessive algal growth in the rivers where we like to recreate. Recent algal blooms in other parts of the US have been toxic. Agricultural leaders and communities that manage water-reclamation facilities are working to find a solution that cost-effectively reduces nutrients in our rivers and streams.

Road salt and fertilizers impact aquifers

top-water-challenges-blog-road-salt

Deicing agents such as road salt and brine can increase chloride in streams and rivers.

Applications of road salt and nitrogen fertilizers are perhaps the two most prolific sources of man-made contaminants to aquifers. Elevated levels of chloride from road salt—and elevated levels of nitrate from fertilizers or failing septic systems—are present in regional aquifers. That’s what  groundwater data collected by the United States Geological Survey, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), and MCD show.

The take-home message is better methods for applying road deicing agents and agricultural fertilizers are needed in areas where regional aquifers are vulnerable to contaminants.

Do we know where these vulnerable aquifer areas are? We have a good start. Every public water system in Ohio that relies on groundwater has a defined source water protection area. A source water protection area is a map of all the aquifer areas which provide drinking water to a particular public water system. Those maps can be shared with farmers and road maintenance departments. It may be possible to reduce use or find better methods to apply fertilizers and road salt in these sensitive areas.

Widespread destruction of natural stream habitats continue

top-water-challenges-blog-concrete-channel

Modified stream channels have poor habitat and water quality.

It used to be that most people’s image of a polluted stream involved a factory with a big discharge pipe pouring toxic chemicals into the stream. That’s no longer a top water quality threat to regional rivers and streams. According to Ohio EPA, human alterations to the stream channel are perhaps the most widespread cause of stream destruction. Human alterations can mean:

  • Channelizing or straightening a stream channel.
  • Removing the natural vegetation from a streambank.
  • Increasing the impervious surface area that drains into a stream.
  • Damming the stream channel.
  • Developing in a stream’s floodplain.

All of the activities listed above disrupt a stream’s natural habitat, which can affect water quality in the places many of us like to recreate. They also create other problems, such as soil erosion and flooding, which can lead to costly clean-up and restoration.

Solutions to the problem typically seek to preserve as much of the stream channel in its natural state as possible. Streamside setbacks, conservation easements, and low- impact development practices are tools that can minimize destruction of rivers and streams.

Moving Forward

All of these water challenges can be overcome. The know-how already exists. The key is you and me. Most of these water challenges are the direct or indirect result of how we live our lives—the neighborhoods we build, the services we demand, and the value we place on having clean water.

The solutions will require different ways of thinking and different approaches to the way in which our region develops land. Agricultural practices for fertilizers and stream conservation will have to improve. New investments in water reclamation technologies may be needed, and perhaps changes to water rates. Are we ready to embrace those changes?

What can you do to prepare? Here’s a short list of ideas:

  • Advocate for federal investment in water infrastructure upgrades.
  • Include water management in short- and long-range community planning.
  • Keep water protection at the top of your community’s priorities.
  • Write local policies that protect water.

 

Hoping for a mild, dry winter? You might be disappointed

El Niño gone/ La Niña here

Winter 2016-2017 is upon the Dayton region, and from the looks of things it’s likely to be very different winter than winter 2015-2016. A major reason for the change is the strong El Niño conditions which persisted throughout winter 2015-2016 are gone. La Niña conditions have taken their place. However, the current La Niña is weak, and its impact on local weather will probably not be as great as the 2015–2016 El Niño event.

La Niña winters tend to bring moisture to the Ohio Valley

La Niña conditions occur when equatorial sea surface temperatures are below average in the central and east-central Pacific Ocean. This is the exact opposite of what occurs during an El Niño. Like El Niño, La Niña impacts global weather patterns by influencing the position of the polar and Pacific jet streams. During La Niña winters, the polar jetstream tends to dive south over North America. The polar jet stream brings cold air and storm systems to northern portions of the United States.

la-nina-graphic

According to National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, we can expect La Niña conditions to persist through February 2017. After February, its likely La Niña will transition to neutral conditions sometime during spring 2017. Neutral conditions mean that neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions are present in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

So what does this mean for our region in terms of winter weather?

Winter 2016 – 2017 is likely to be wetter and cooler

The odds favor a wetter and cooler winter 2016 – 2017 compared to winter 2015 – 2016. Is this a guarantee? No it’s not. There are a multitude of other climatic factors at play in determining winter weather outcomes in our region. El Niño and La Niña events are just one of those factors.

Simple septic system steps save money and mess

By Mike Ekberg, Manager for Water Resources Monitoring and Analysis

None of us wants to throw thousands of dollars down the drain or put our family’s health at risk. But if you have a septic system and don’t maintain it, you could be doing just that.

It costs only $250 to $300 every four years to maintain your septic system. But repairing or replacing a broken septic system can cost $3,000 to $7,000. And just as important, a poorly maintained septic system can contaminate groundwater/drinking water and spread disease.

What is a septic system?
Septic systems are highly efficient, self-contained, underground wastewater treatment systems. They are commonly found in rural areas and often consist of a septic tank and a drainfield.

septic-system-graphic

Do you have a septic system?

Twenty-five percent of U.S. homes have a septic system. How do you know if you do? Here are some signs:

  • You use well water.
  • The waterline coming into your home doesn’t have a meter.
  • Your neighbors have a septic system.

How to maintain your septic system

Inspect and pump regularly: Your septic system should be inspected and pumped every three to five years by a certified septic system professional.

Use water efficiently to avoid overloading the system: Consider using high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. When using the washing machine, be sure to select the proper load size to avoid using more water than needed.

Flush with care: Don’t flush anything besides human waste and toilet paper. Never flush:

  • Paintssepticsmart-week4
  • Chemicals
  • Medications
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Dental floss

Take care at the drain

  • Never pour cooking oil or grease down the drain.
  • Never pour oil-based paints or solvents down the drain.
  • Eliminate or limit the use of a garbage disposal.

Maintain your drainfield

  • Never park or drive on your drainfield.
  • Plant trees an appropriate distance away from your drainfield. A septic service professional can advise you on the proper distance.
  • Keep roof drains, sump pumps and other rainwater drainage systems away from your drainfield area. Excess water can slow or stop the wastewater treatment process.

Information for this blogpost was taken directly from EPA’s “A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems” and Groundwater Foundation materials.

Water needs you because you need water

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, watershed partnerships manager
Manager for Watershed Partnerships

Have you ever tried to live a day or even a half day without water? No morning shower, no morning coffee, no washing your clothes. Those are the simple inconveniences. But it’s more than that. No water for the doctor to wash her hands before treating you. No water for firefighters to save a burning house. No water for farmers to grow your food.

imagine-a-day-without-water-no-date

We take water for granted, but it’s the one thing you can’t live without for more than a few days.

You think water isn’t a big deal? Consider this:

  • 46 percent of US lakes and 43 percent of U.S. rivers are polluted and unsafe for swimming or fishing.
  • 43 percent of the US is experiencing drought conditions.
  • Around the world, 1 of 5 children that dies under the age of 5 does so from exposure to polluted water.
  • By 2025, 3.5 billion people will be facing water shortages.

We can live without a lot, but we can’t live more than a few days without water.

Safe drinking water crises across the country

Cities across the country are facing major water issues:

  • The City of Toledo had no access to safe drinking water when toxins were sucked out of Lake Erie and sent into the drinking water supply chain.
  • California communities are experiencing epic drought. Some residents have relocated because wells have run dry.
  • The City of Flint, Michigan, knows how what life is like without safe, reliable water when lead was found at unhealthy levels in its water system.
  • Residents from South Carolina to West Virginia have lost water and wastewater service because of terrible flooding.

A water main breaks every two minutes

And it’s not just a water quality or quantity issue that’s a threat. The infrastructure that brings water to our homes and takes it back for treatment after we use it is also at risk.

Many water and wastewater systems in the big cities in the U.S. were built more than 100 years ago. These systems run 24/7/365, and they are breaking down rapidly. There’s a water main break in this country every two minutes.

But this hidden infrastructure doesn’t capture the public’s interest like roads and highways. You can see when highways and streets begin to decay. You can feel a pothole. But underground water infrastructure is invisible – until a water main break leaves you without water.

Water is not just an environmental issue. It’s an economic issue, it’s a jobs issue, and it’s a health issue. And someday, it may be a national security issue.

Don’t let it get that far.

Be part of the solution – be a water advocate

value-of-water

Become a water advocate. Support stronger laws to protect your water.

We all need to take action — now. Become a water advocate:

  • Support spending to fix the problems.
  • Support stronger laws to protect your water.
  • Vote for people who care about your life and your health and will do anything to protect the one thing you can’t live without – water .

MCD is taking action and raising awareness by partnering with hundreds of organizations across the country  in the Value of Water campaign.

What’s ahead for our region’s weather?

By Mike Ekberg, Manager for Water Resources Monitoring and Analysis

In my August 1, blogpost, “Climate Change: Is It Real?” we noted that our climate is always changing. Some people want to debate the cause, but that’s not nearly as important as planning for the changes that are expected.

A warming trend will amplify the extremes in our region’s climate, according to the Third National Climate Assessment. We can expect more intense summer heat waves, more droughts, and more floods.

More rain when we don’t need it and less rain when we do
The Third National Climate Assessment says here’s what we can expect over the next 35 years:

  • Annual average temperature in our region is expected to increase as much as 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Winter and spring precipitation is expected to increase 10-20 percent.
    • We’ll see less snow and more rain.
    • Storms are likely to be stronger, increasing the chance of flooding.
  • Summer rainfall is expected to drop 8 percent, increasing the chance of droughts.
    • Summer droughts can increase water demands on utilities for lawn irrigation.
    • More frequent summer droughts can increase water demand for crop irrigation.

The Miami Valley will need to cope with intense winter and spring rain events when human water demand is low. Likewise, we’ll need to cope with hotter – and sometimes drier – summers when human water demand is high.

Making changes now key to coping in the future
How can our region successfully cope with these challenges?

Planning and wise infrastructure investment is the key. Here are some steps communities in our region can take to prepare for a warmer future.

  • Minimize paved surfaces to reduce flash flooding and streambank erosion.
  • Encourage infiltration areas such as pervious pavement, rain gardens, and drainage swales to reduce urban runoff.
  • Install flood warning systems in areas prone to flash flooding.

    rain garden

    Rain gardens reduce storm water runoff by using the rain water on your property, allowing it to soak into the ground and recharge the aquifer.

  • Invest in more water storage to meet summer demands.
  • Manage summer water demand through regulations, rate structures, or consumer incentives.
  • Use the most efficient irrigation technologies to reduce summer water demand.
  • Provide cooling shelters for people who do not have access to air conditioning during summer heat waves.

The time to act is now
Taking steps now is the key to preparing for a changing world. Our region is fortunate to have sufficient water resources and should be able to weather the forecasted changes if we manage those resources well. If we don’t prepare now, we’ll be playing catch up later, and that could prove to be costly.