New Virginia Program Targets
Polluted Urban Runoff
The Dell, a park on the grounds of the
University of Virginia in Charlottesville, is a
quiet, green oasis in the middle of a
bustling state university. Students, faculty,
and visitors are easily drawn there by its
leafy trees and shrubs, shady walking
paths, free-flowing stream, and picture-postcard pond.
You’d never know the Dell is actually a
stormwater retention and treatment facility
designed to reduce polluted runoff from
flowing into Meadow Creek, the Rivanna
and James Rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
But this lovely park is proof positive that
smart planning and eco-friendly, low-impact
design can help reduce pollution, beautify
landscapes, and be budget-friendly at the
Those are among the same goals as
Virginia’s new stormwater management program, a package of statewide regulations
that went into effect July 1. The state program is designed to reduce harmful impacts
of urban and suburban runoff and encourage cost-effective, low-impact practices—
like those at the Dell—that slow water and
allow it to soak into the ground rather than
wash off and sweep pollution and dirt into
The state program requires all Virginia
localities to implement a local runoff program or have the Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality do it for them. Either
way, the new program toughens runoff standards and is a major step toward implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint,
the federal-state plan to restore the Bay
watershed by 2025.
Earlier this year, CBF worked hard to
ensure the Virginia General Assembly did
not delay, weaken, or narrow the new runoff
program. CBF and other stakeholders also
persuaded legislators to preserve $32 million in state funding for Virginia’s
Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which
helps localities implement runoff programs
and pay for projects.
CBF also has been working directly
with Virginia localities. We helped the cities
of Falls Church and Lynchburg better
track progress and engage citizens in runoff
projects. Later, we sponsored two online
webinars for local planners and utility
officials to brief them on lessons learned
from those projects.
CBF also partnered with the City of
Richmond and the Town of Onancock on
grant projects that engage entire communities to install rain barrels, rain gardens, floating wetlands, streamside tree “buffers,” and
And finally, CBF has continued to press the
administration of Governor Terry McAuliffe
to accelerate efforts to hit milestone targets
so Virginia remains on track to reach 2017
and 2025 Bay clean-up goals. We have also
demanded that the state reissue long-expired runoff permits for Virginia’s largest
municipalities. Reassuringly, the McAuliffe
Administration has recently acknowledged
it intends to do both.
The University of Virginia’s Dell demonstrates it’s possible to manage urban runoff
in cost-effective, even beautiful ways.
According to Jeff Sitler, Associate Director of
Environmental Resources for the university,
school planners concluded years ago that on-site, low-impact projects achieve “the best
bang for the buck.”
“We wanted the Dell project to produce a
blend” of benefits, he said. “We wanted to
improve stream flows, improve water quality,
reduce the volume of water going downstream,
and provide a nice amenity for the university.”
The university succeeded on all counts. The
rest of Virginia can, too.
uFor more information about what is happening
in Virginia, visit cbf.org/Virginia.
Virginia’s new plan to
manage polluted runoff
The Dell’s bucolic upper pond catches and holds polluted runoff from large storms.