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Rainwater-In-Context Initiative Members Published in Stormwater Magazine | Congress for the New Urbanism

Rainwater-In-Context Initiative Members Published in Stormwater Magazine

mcarney's picture

CNU members and contributors to the Rainwater-In-Context Initiative, Jim Dumont and Kim Stephens have just been published in the most recent issue of Stormwater Magazine. Their article, “Rainwater Management in a Watershed Context” is a thoughtful review of the divergent goals of rainwater management in the US and Canada written from a British Columbia perspective.

The two critical policy differences the article addresses are in geography and governance. In British Columbia, protection of aquatic habitat is paramount and this is approached from the bottom-up with a reliance on education. The American approach is a top-down strategy that focuses on water quality.

Dumont and Stephens acknowledge the landmark research done by Richard Horner and Chris May at the Center for Urban Water Resources Management at the University of Washington in 1996. Their research rattled the conventional wisdom of rainwater management of the time. They identified four factors that negatively affect stream health. In rank order they were: (1) Changes in hydrology; (2) Disturbance and/or loss of integrity of riparian corridor; (3) Degradation and/or loss of aquatic habitat within the stream; and (4) Deterioration of water quality. The two key messages delivered by this research was that (1) fish would already be gone by the time pollutant loading is a factor; and (2) if we get the hydrology right, water quality will typically take care of itself. Policymakers in Canada and particularly British Columbia have taken this research to heart in regards to planning for watershed health. The authors lament the US EPA’s focus on water quality, but see hints of the Agency moving in the right direction in recent years with the release of such reports as the National Lakes Assessment and A Strategic Agenda to Protect Waters and Build More Livable Communities Through Green Infrastructure.

Dumont and Stephen’s notion that “land development and watershed protection can be compatible” is right in line with the CNU’s Rainwater-In-Context Initiative. Read more at the Initiative website and get involved in the discussion by joining the Rainwater-In-Context listserv.

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