DC’s New Stormwater Management Rule: A Win-Win

New rules always seem more like a headache than a benefit to those who have to abide by them. The District of Columbia’s new Stormwater Management Rule, already in place and due to take full effect on July 14th, 2015, might seem like a nuisance to many property owners and developers.


What The Stormwater Management Rule Says

The Stormwater Management Rule requires new construction or substantial improvement projects that disturb land greater than 5,000 square feet to retain a certain amount of stormwater, using sustainable drainage systems such as permeable paving, rain gardens, green roofs, infiltration trenches or ponds, and rainwater harvesting.

The rule includes a market-based tool called the Stormwater Retention Credit (SRC) Trading Program, similar in concept to carbon trading, which allows those who voluntarily retain stormwater on their sites to sell excess “credits (1 credit = 1 gallon of stormwater)” to those who are unable to meet all of their stormwater retention requirements on site.


How You (and The District) Will Benefit From The Stormwater Rule

As painful as it may seem at first glance, this framework offers benefits and opportunities across a broad spectrum, far beyond the realm of the tree-hugging community.

What it brings to the District is more greenery, and all the economic, social, and environmental benefits associated with it.


1. A New Economy

The SRC Trading Program presents an opportunity for owners and developers of multiple sites to profit from SRC sales by planning and coordinating their stormwater management strategies. It also gives a monetary incentive to preserve areas of natural habitat within the District, and potential for property owners in less dense neighborhoods with unused open spaces to generate profit in their own backyard. A new economy creates new jobs.


2. Property Value Increase

The positive correlation between the presence of green space and property value has been proven through various studies. For example, A 2010 study conducted in Portland, Oregon, showed that homes located within 1,500 feet of natural forest areas enjoyed significant property premiums, averaging at $10,648.


3. Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) Mitigation

The District, like many other cities, is on a combined sewage-stormwater drainage system, with a habit of discharging water containing raw sewage into open waterways and onto surface streets via manholes when major downpours occur. Sustainable drainage systems reduce the amount of stormwater that flows into the combined stormwater-sewage drainage system at once, mitigating CSO risk.


5. Urban Flood Control

Last week on June 27th, heavy rain in the DC area logged 2.75” at Reagan National Airport, and flooded various corners of the city. Increasing greenery can save us from another day of walking in soaked shoes through puddles and mini-waterfalls (which often contain raw sewage…).


6. Urban Sanctuaries

Spots like The Highline and Central Park in New York City and Rock Creek Park in DC are favorite haunts for those seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. Green spaces created through sustainable drainage systems will create more of these urban oases for the residents and visitors of the District to enjoy.
In short, the District’s stormwater retention regulation might just be the momentum the city needs in its efforts towards resilience.


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