I am in my second year on the Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG) Water Resources Advisory Committee. So far it has been a great experience, and it has opened my eyes to a whole new side of water! For our clients, I primarily focus on managing stormwater within specific property lines. Once the water leaves the property, it is no longer my “responsibility.” Although a critical time for stormwater, the time spent on the client property is fairly short, as this water will move downhill, downstream, be used multiple times and serve multiple purposes within the population. With that said, you can see that my view of stormwater is focused on a relatively small piece of the water “Pie”.
The TJCOG Water Resources Advisory Committee meets to assist and engage a seven- county region of governments within the Cape Fear River Basin (Jordan Lake) and the Neuse River Basin (Falls Lake). This committee is led by Mike Schlegal, the Water Resources Program Manager, and Ed Harrison who sits on the Council for the Town of Chapel Hill. Without going into too much detail about their experience protecting our states’ water resources, let’s just say that they make this stormwater professional feel inadequate. Local governments are lucky to have them as a resource.
In previous decades, a primary focus of local governments has been to ensure that their citizens will have access to an abundant water supply (Water Quantity). As populations grow, this demand on water will only increase, and the decisions and planning that is occurring now has to address the needs of future generations. But, there is a shift occurring; a much needed shift, where we are also concerned with ways to improve water quality. When water is impacted by sediment, nitrogen, phosphorous, metals, hydrocarbons, etc. it becomes less accessible and more difficult to use in our daily lives. So how can we address the quality of our water while simultaneously achieving our water quantity goals? How do we merge these two worlds? It takes planning and a very comprehensive approach to all things that impact water, from development all the way to point source discharges.
One way we are seeing improvements is through Low Impact Development (LID). Using a smarter approach to stormwater and implementing a variety of stormwater best management practices (BMP’s) on site (pervious asphalt, bio-filtration, underground storage, in-line proprietary systems, water reuse systems, etc.) will greatly improve the quality of the water while allowing for the peak flows to remain the same.
In addition, proper maintenance practices of stormwater facilities such as street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, forebay cleaning, vegetation management, and trash collection can remove sediment, phosphorous, nitrogen, metals and hydrocarbons from the environment. By repairing and maintaining the stormwater facilities that have already been installed, we will allow these systems to function as designed. Stormwater management is the first line of defense when it comes to water quality and quantity. Focusing our efforts on the proper designs and maintenance of these stormwater BMP’s will have a tremendous impact on water quality.
I suggest that if you’re interested in learning more about ways to get involved, come to one of the TJCOG Water Resources Advisory Committee meetings. You will find representatives, citizens, and businesses who are all interested in the same thing: protecting our water resources for a better future.
TJCOG Water Resources Advisory Committee
Michael Brewer, Director