September 27, 2011
In recent months the threat of flooding has become a harsh reality for home and business owners throughout the region. Record rainfall has made it clearly evident that effective stormwater management is critical to protecting the safety and wellbeing of area communities.
For the past six years, the Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) located at the Temple University Ambler Campus and directed by Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone; and Villanova University’s Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP), under the direction of Villanova Engineering Professor Robert Traver, have worked in partnership to advance the practice of sustainable stormwater management through inter-disciplinary research, demonstration, and outreach.
“Combining the resources, experience, and success of Temple University’s CSC and Villanova University’s VUSP, the Temple-Villanova Sustainable Stormwater Initiative (T-VSSI) advocates a team approach to sustainable stormwater management, with the participation of scientists, engineers, planners, landscape architects, and other experts,” said Susan Spinella Sacks, Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities. “This cooperative effort is unique as it advocates broad public outreach grounded in an integrated technical approach to stormwater management.”
According to Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities, the goal of the T-VSSI (www.ambler.temple.edu/csc/t-vssi) is to “take a proactive approach to improving stormwater management with a scientific emphasis.”
“Supported by almost $1.3 million in grants from the William Penn Foundation, we are involved in advocacy focused on providing municipalities the tools to implement stormwater best management practices (BMPs), often referred to as stormwater control measures (SCM),” he said. “Best management practices in stormwater, while generally supported by environmental groups and many engineering firms, are not often implemented as township officials are typically unfamiliar with them. A lot of urbanization has taken place over the years, but unfortunately not a lot of stormwater management.”
There are significant barriers to implementing sustainable stormwater management in Southeastern Pennsylvania, according to Spinella Sacks, “related to a lack of expertise, experience, planning, and monitoring to support sustainable stormwater management.”
“Most municipalities are reluctant to accept or are not taking advantage of the potential of green infrastructure, inhibiting efforts to establish a sustainable approach to stormwater management,” added Featherstone. “The T-VSSI team continues to address these barriers by providing the critical link between advocacy and science. Through partnering with municipalities and nonprofits, we can provide credibility for local efforts to require and construct BMPs and advance sustainable stormwater management in our region.”
Since its inception in 2005, T-VSSI has implemented working examples of stormwater BMPs where extensive research and public awareness campaigns continue to take place. The BMP examples include a working riparian buffer, infiltration gallery, constructed wetland, and upland pond at the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust in Huntingdon Valley, a 720-acre nonprofit land trust located in the Pennypack Creek Watershed; and a restored wetland and several other examples on Villanova’s campus. Researchers monitor the BMPs, testing various water quality and quantity criteria, to assess the potential improvements the BMPs can provide to local watersheds.
“Through the Center’s studies of the Pennypack Creek and Wissahickon watersheds, we looked at more than 600 stormwater facilities and found that many were not functioning properly or were not being maintained. By demonstrating BMPs in locations close to areas where flooding is a critical issue, we hope that officials will be more predisposed to ask developers and others seeking to build in their municipalities to use state-of-the art BMPs,” said Featherstone. “As the devastating flooding that that we have recently experienced clearly shows, these are very serious issues that we must take a multi-municipal approach to sooner rather than later. Stormwater control measures are becoming more important than ever.”
In September, the T-VSSI sponsored a Low Impact Development Conference in Philadelphia. The partnership also sponsors the Pennsylvania Stormwater Management Symposium every two years at Villanova and maintains a comprehensive Web site that provides detailed information about stormwater management and stormwater BMPs what have been implemented in the Philadelphia region.
“We are focused on providing our technical research with a strong advocacy base. The Center and VUSP have been leaders in stormwater management research for some time,” said Md Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Director of GIS Operations and Research for the CSC. “We have established a database/support center that showcases an inventory of the best examples of stormwater management practices in the region. There are more than 150 projects profiled and we continue to develop this resource for municipalities and concerned citizens.”
As two independent research programs, the CSC and VUSP have made important contributions to the understanding of stormwater management issues and the implementation of BMPs. The T-VSSI leverages the results of this externally funded work to improve outreach and education programs.
For more information on T-VSSI please visit www.csc.temple.edu/t-vssi.