Extra Extra Read All About It

July 31, 2014
Jim Caldwell
How You Can Help

You know a story is significant when it makes the front page of the Washington Post – above the fold. Must admit, I never thought I would see a news story about stormwater placed so prominently, despite the fact that stormwater runoff is the largest growing source of pollution to our streams and the Chesapeake Bay. But, on July 16, there it was. The Post headline read; “Heat has upside: less bay pollution –Dry, warm months reduce runoff, meaning smaller ‘dead zone’.”  It is sad to think the weather that wreaks havoc on our vegetable gardens and general comfort here in the Mid- Atlantic could actually improve the health of the Bay.

No rain, no runoff, no pollution, no dead zone. Sounds good, but don’t get your hopes up that this desert-like weather could be the solution in our struggle to save the Bay. Nope, it won’t work in the long run because without the routine recharge of fresh water runoff from the rain, the salty ocean water will creep further up the Bay and devastate the aquatic life that thrive in the reduced salinity levels found in a healthy bay.

While desert-like weather is clearly not the answer for the Bay, it does point to the real solution. If a lack of polluted stormwater runoff leads to temporary improvements (until the fish and crabs choke on salty water), just imagine the impact of rain runoff that is free of the pesticides, oil, fertilizers, animal waste, and all the other products that we allow to be washed off our land and into our streams and eventually into the Bay.

Building rain gardens, restoring stream banks, planting stream buffers, and reducing surfaces that prevent water from soaking into the ground all serve to reduce polluted stormwater from reaching our streams and Bay – at a significant cost. However, all our Bay restoration efforts could be more effective – at no cost – if we would just clean up after ourselves – our cars, our pets, and minimize our use of fertilizer. It is really rather simple. Don’t leave these pollutants lying around to be carried away by stormwater in the first place.

Desert weather will not restore our streams and the Bay. We need rain and runoff for a healthy estuary. What we don’t need is polluted runoff. Clearly this is in our power to control.

Now that’s front page news.

Jim Caldwell
Stormwater Manager

The original article Jim referenced is available to Washington Post subscribers, or you can set up a trial membership and see it here:

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-33234696.html

A very similar article ran in the Washington Post Health & Science section, and you can read that online at this link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/sauna-like-heat-low-rain-help-keep-chesapeake-bay-clean/2012/07/15/gJQA18WGnW_story.html