Did you know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that stormwater is a major source of surface water pollution in our community?
As stormwater travels over impervious surfaces like driveways, roads, sidewalks and roofs, it can pick up pollutants like dirt, trash, oil, fertilizers and pet waste and carry it into the James River – the primary source of drinking water for most RVA residents.
How do you make a big dent in stormwater pollution? Go local! The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is on a mission to educate residents, businesses owners and local governments about the importance of reducing the impact of runoff through responsible landscaping with its RiverWise Communities Program.
“The [RiverWise Community] program aims to educate communities about the importance of controlling stormwater by using native plants and making informed decisions about how they manage their property,” says Elizabeth Chudoba, Program Coordinator, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
“It is important that we recognize that stormwater pollution comes from roads, shopping centers and all developed lands, including our own homes,” says Nissa Dean, Virginia Director, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “If we all work hard to reduce stormwater on our own property, collectively we can prevent millions of gallons of stormwater from entering our waterways. This will keep harmful nutrients and toxic chemicals out of our streams, helping aquatic life thrive.”
“The Alliance provides tools for assessing properties, implementing the practices, tracking implementation and quantifying pollutant load reductions, as well as reporting it to states and the Chesapeake Bay Program so that reduction can be credited in the Watershed Model,” Chudoba explains.
When a homeowner shows interest in the RiverWise program, the Alliance sends a trained volunteer to the residence to conduct a property assessment. The assessment outlines the current impact the property is having on local waterways and identifies any practices that would reduce that impact – like planting trees or rain gardens, or addressing impervious surfaces.
“After the assessment, homeowners receive a report detailing the actions they can take to reduce their impact,” says Chudoba. “If funding is available, the homeowner can then sign up to receive cost-share funds to implement these practices.”
The non-profit organization has partnered with many area watershed champions, including the Reedy Creek Coalition in Richmond. The stormwater management practices implemented as a result of the groups’ partnership have resulted in the treatment of over one million gallons of stormwater per year.
Chudoba reports that since working on the Reedy Creek project, the Alliance has implemented solutions to improve the Bellemeade-Goodes Creek watershed, which has become a RiverWise Community. And Northside and East End residents of Richmond will soon be able to join the movement.
“We just received another grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to continue running the RiverWise program, and we will be installing practices throughout Richmond,” says Chudoba.