For years, scientists, regulators, innovative developers, engineers, and others have been calling on localities to encourage more eco-friendly development practices that can capture greater volumes of stormwater runoff and filter more contaminants than conventional practices do.
Conventional urban development tends to increase a site’s impervious surfaces—such as roads, parking lots, and buildings—and store stormwater runoff in ponds or other holding areas until it can be piped back into waterways.
These conventional practices can pollute waterways, place infrastructure at risk from flooding, and deplete natural storage areas of freshwater for private wells and municipal supplies.
By contrast, low-impact development (LID) practices mimic the natural hydrology and filtering capacities of pre-development sites. LID practices include rain gardens and bioswales that absorb stormwater flows and allow vegetation, soils, and microbes to filter pollutants, which reduce contamination of waterways.
To advance the use of LID practices in South Carolina, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium has established partnerships with the ACE Basin and North Inlet–Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) Coastal Training Programs and the Center for Watershed Protection based in Maryland.
This partnership is receiving $329,943 from the NERR’s Science Collaborative over two years to develop an interdisciplinary, user-defined manual for LID practices, thereby removing a barrier to implementation on the community level, neighborhood scale, and site scale.
First, the grant will support a series of collaborative focus group meetings with applied-science researchers and engineers, planners and landscape architects, climate researchers, and others.
The grant will also support technical trainings for decision makers who face challenges of protecting water quality and habitats in a time of intense development pressure and climate change, which can cause more intense storms and rainfall.
Although decision makers might be aware of the benefits of using LID techniques, they often lack expertise, guidance, and resources to implement them.
Therefore, technical trainers will work with decision makers to create tools and resources that can help communities implement LID practices and reduce the impact of development on natural resources.
The LID guidance document will be vetted by end-users and debuted through end-user workshops. In the process of developing the manual, the team will create the following resources and tools to support LID implementation in coastal South Carolina:
- Modeling to support the integration of landscape and climate variables to guide research and using Best Management Practices in the design;
- A comprehensive, digital spreadsheet that will enable intended users to model how BMPs could impact stormwater runoff and to select techniques appropriate to their site;
- Support for updated urban planning and development regulations that will encourage the implementation of LID;
- The integration of climate change predictions into BMP design and guidance;
- Training on use of the manual for coastal communities.
S.C. Sea Grant Extension Program staff including April Turner, coastal community specialist, and Jessica Whitehead, regional climate extension specialist, are part of the project’s investigator team.