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Low Impact Development Approach to Managing the New Stormwater Regulations

The new Virginia stormwater regulations scheduled to go into full effect on July 1, 2014 present significant challenges for site design and development. Much of the current focus is on avoiding these challenges by taking advantage of the grandfathering provisions available, allowing sites to be developed under the existing regulations until July 1, 2019. While Koontz-Bryant is active in helping those who want to qualify their projects for grandfathered status, we are also preparing for the challenges of developing sites under the new regulations.

Addressing the stricter stormwater quality requirements and volume reduction requirements included in the new stormwater regulations points toward the adoption of a Low Impact Development (LID) approach. In the LID approach, stormwater management is fully integrated into the design of the site. The stormwater management design employs a variety of techniques, often in combination, to minimize, store, infiltrate, evaporate, and detain runoff. All indications suggest that using multiple techniques in combination will be necessary to meet the new requirements. LID is not a new concept, but it has not been widely employed in Virginia due to cost and the familiarity of both engineers and local agencies with more traditional stormwater management approaches. There simply has not been a strong reason to challenge the status quo and explore ways of mitigating costs, until now.

Capitalizing on the strengths of LID, and minimizing the negatives, will require more than simply switching out traditional stormwater management techniques for LID techniques. At the earliest stages of the planning process, stormwater management has to be fully integrated into the design of the site. To satisfy the new requirements, designers will need to capture and treat runoff from a higher percentage of the overall site area. Addressing this need right from the beginning provides opportunities to define pockets throughout the design for stormwater management facilities and to assess which LID techniques make the most sense at a point when it is easier to accommodate a specific technique in the design. LID employs different techniques in different combinations to present many options for addressing stormwater management. Designers need to have a full understanding of the multiple strategies and facilities employed in LID, and be able to creatively combine techniques, in order to design an integrated, efficient, cost effective system for a specific site. In the end the success of the design may be determined by the designer’s willingness to work closely with local agencies and make a case for the design. The new stormwater regulations mean an adjustment for local agencies as well. Working with reviewers to determine how a design works and meets requirements, particularly as the solutions become more creative, promises to be an important part of the process as everyone negotiates the new regulations.

There is little question that the new stormwater regulations present significant challenges to everyone involved in site development. However, with proper planning, a thorough knowledge of the options available, a creative approach to combining techniques, and the ability to work with local agencies to gain approval for a given design, Koontz-Bryant can address these challenges. For more information please contact Andy Sisson, Landscape Architect at Koontz-Bryant, 804-200-1935 or by email.