Rare and Romantic Seahorses Threatened by Pollution and Fishing
Superstorm Sandy Not as Harmful to Chesapeake Bay as Past Storms

Arlington: More Green, Less Stormwater

Chesapeake Bay restoration experts know that one of the biggest threats to clean water in the Bay and its rivers is stormwater runoff -– the rainwater that runs off all the rooftops, streets, parking lots, and lawns in the Bay watershed’s six-state region, washing toxic pollution directly into local streams, rivers, and ultimately the Bay.

In fact, the sheer volume of stormwater runoff and its toxic brew of oil, grease, bacteria, fertilizer, dirt, and grime threaten to overwhelm the pollution reductions made over the years by farmers, wastewater treatment plants, and other Bay pollution sources. Pollution from these other sources is gradually getting better; stormwater runoff pollution is getting worse.

That’s why Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay clean water blueprint -- the state’s plan to reduce pollution and restore the Bay by 2025 -- puts an emphasis on better managing polluted runoff from Virginia’s cities and towns. And that’s why localities across Virginia are grappling with how to capture, slow, treat, or otherwise reduce the stormwater runoff in their communities.

Many are using low-impact, less expensive “greenscaping” techniques. By doing so, localities not only help restore clean water to local streams and the Bay, but they’re also reducing local flooding, cutting treatment costs for drinking water, and beautifying streets and parks at the same time.

Like many localities, Arlington, Va., a busy urban county adjacent to Washington, D.C., is employing lots of innovative and cost-effective greenscaping projects to address its stormwater challenges. The county showed off three of them during a recent “green stormwater tour” for statewide conservation groups.

Tour stops included:

FourMileMap• The Four Mile Run restoration project, a joint effort with the City of Alexandria and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore stream channels, wetlands, native vegetation, and recreational opportunities along Four Mile Run, a 7-mile creek flowing through Arlington to the Potomac River (top photo).  The project not only ensures continued flood protection but is improving water quality, wildlife habitat, public access, and recreation along the creek.

• An 18,000-square-foot green roof atop the DSC_0016county’s Walter Reed Community Center that absorbs rainwater like a sponge to nourish the colorful plants on the roof. Studies show green roofs can reduce runoff from a building by 50 percent or more. Among other features, the Walter Reed Community Center also has a rain garden to absorb runoff from the center’s parking lot.

TribAbefore• Donaldson Run stream restoration, an on-going project to reduce flooding and erosion, restore and beautify a favorite neighborhood creek, and produce cleaner water for the Potomac River. By reconfiguring the creek channel and creating gentle meanders and TribAAfter1rocky “step pools,” the project allows runoff-fed stream water to slow down, spread out across the natural flood plain, sink into the ground, and settle out much of the dirt, flotsam, and jetsam so typical of urban streams. To learn more, watch this quick video about the project.

That such green, holistic approaches can greatly reduce runoff pollution and improve local water quality is clearly demonstrated by before and after photos of the Donaldson Run Clean.Dirty restoration project. Especially striking is this image, taken during a heavy thunderstorm. The water coming down the restored branch of Donaldson Run on the left is markedly cleaner than the muddy, silt-filled water coursing down the unrestored branch on the right.

“There are so many compelling reasons to restore our urban streams using these greenscaping techniques,” said Aileen Winquist, Arlington’s watershed outreach program manager. “They reduce sediment and other pollution, a major focus of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. They protect county infrastructure from erosion, restore healthy streams for fish and other aquatic creatures, and re-create natural areas for wildlife and public recreation and education.

"And perhaps best of all from a local government perspective, they can be more affordable than traditional concrete and pipe solutions.”

Sound like winners.

Chuck Epes
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photos courtesy of Arlington County



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

All very nice and green, unless you are building a new house in Arlington after January 2012 code came into effect requiring new home owners to clutter their yards with unsightly "urban planters" that cost a small fortune. I'm not convinced there is a need to filter rain water or that the cost should be borne by homeowners. No amount of urban planters filling the yards of new single family homes can possibly stop runoff from the extreme weather events that are now commonplace. The already nightmarish Arlington County permit process has somehow managed to get worse...

Huh. I walked by Donaldson Run after the storm. That artificial reconfiguration of the stream attempting to control the water- damaged. In fact, all that artificial stream control was - if I am not mistake - immediately busted after installation by a major storm - and had to be rebuilt. Now, after Sandy - trails near donaldson run which had been "reconfigured" are getting washed out and turned into mud pits. The stone calming measures in the stream, are suffering erosion and the water is finding its own way down.

This was a wasted effort and a waste of tax payer dollars - by humans who think they can control water. These efforts are all falling apart. And now ArlCo wants to cut down more trees along Donaldson Run in order to do some more "recofiguration."

To longchamps...then who should take responsibility? Should we all wait until our water becomes undrinkable? Then it's too late.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)