New white paper highlights groundbreaking approaches that could increase SoCal water supply through stormwater capture
Southern California is on track to lead the nation in harnessing the power of its rainstorms through innovative stormwater capture projects. As these projects are planned and built, agencies are challenged to balance cost-effectiveness with design that brings multiple benefits, such as mitigating the effects of climate change, drought and emerging water quality and regulatory issues.
A new white paper released by the Southern California Water Coalition aims to further the discussion through its provision of nine case studies of successful stormwater capture projects from California to New York. The case studies and analysis provide critical insights into the elements of success for innovative local water supply projects, which will likely play a key role in California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio initiative.
Challenging Traditional Thinking
“Local government and water agencies are looking at stormwater capture projects through a new lens, one that challenges traditional thinking about project performance to also account for other community benefits while expanding regional water supplies,” said Rich Nagel, co-chair of SCWC’s Stormwater Task Force and a principal with Jacobs Engineering. “It’s a paradigm shift that requires a stream of novel ideas and innovators who can look beyond what is possible to what can be.”
The new paper breaks the issue into three key areas and presents innovative solutions for tackling them: multi-agency collaborations, alternative delivery and financing, and assuring sustainable operations and maintenance.
The case studies showcase innovations such as a creative financing structure using environmental impact bonds in Atlanta, Georgia, and examples of emerging alternative delivery forms in Southern California. It also summarizes local and national case studies on the intersection of workforce development with green stormwater infrastructure delivery and implementation.
“What’s clear to me is that the large and complex scope of stormwater capture projects, particularly in urban settings, will require cooperative solutions that bring multiple benefits while making use of every drop of water that we get,” said Charley Wilson, SCWC executive director. “Southern California as a region must continue to invest in a broad range of water supply alternatives including, investments in imported supply reliability, recycled water, desalination, groundwater cleanup and stormwater capture.”
The SCWC Task Force offers five recommendations following its analysis of the case studies:
- Develop best management practices and creative funding sources to build projects in urban watersheds where funding and space are tight.
- Balance issues of economic equity through project site selection and programs such as workforce development.
- Maximize project benefits through cross-collaboration with other agencies and organizations and work directly with impacted communities to address their needs and concerns.
- Find ways to use existing groundwater basins, wastewater treatment systems and more to increase stormwater capture project cost-effectiveness.
- Integrate operations and maintenance planning from the start, through workforce development, training and certification as well as standardized procedures, equipment and specifications.
The paper, titled “Innovations in Stormwater Capture: Alternative Delivery, O&M Scenarios and Best Management Practices, Multi-Agency Collaboration and Workforce Development,” will be the subject of a public workshop taking place at Los Angeles County Public Works offices in Alhambra on September 27. The paper is the third in a series first published in 2012 by the SCWC Stormwater Task Force.
Last year, SCWC’s task force published Stormwater Capture: Enhancing Recharge and Direct Use Through Data Collection. The white paper offered an analysis of data from six different water agencies on 32 active projects to determine each project’s cost per acre-foot of captured stormwater. Costs ranged from $59 per acre-foot to more than $250,000 per acre-foot. The ambitious data gathering project included actual stormwater and urban water runoff capture volumes, costs, benefits, and performance of existing stormwater projects.
In 2012, SCWC published its first white paper on stormwater capture. “Stormwater Capture: Opportunities to Increase Water Supplies in Southern California,” published in January 2012, aimed to open the door to dialogue among stakeholders on merits and limitations of various stormwater management strategies in the context of water quality and water supply.