During the spring and summer months, stormwater pollution is especially prevalent. Water resulting from precipitation and snow/ice melt either soaks into exposed soil or remains on top of impervious surfaces. As stormwater flows as runoff to nearby waterways, it picks up pollutants including debris, sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste and more.
A major contributor to stormwater pollution is traced back to residual excess from lawn care maintenance – particularly with fertilizers and lawn clippings.
Check out the five tips below for ways to reduce stormwater pollution when it comes to your lawn maintenance.
Please feel free to print and share our Stormwater Pollution and Lawn Maintenance Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc. A high-resolution pdf can be downloaded by clicking here.
Use Fertilizer Sparingly
A little goes a long way. Many plants don’t need as much fertilizer or need it as often as you think. Reduce stormwater pollution by minimizing your fertilizer during the spring and summer.
Use Organic, Phosphorous Free Fertilizers
In addition to reducing stormwater pollution with the amount of fertilizer you use, it’s equally important to use the proper type. Organic, phosphorous free fertilizers release nutrients slower and are less detrimental to the environment.
Proper Disposal of Waste
One of the best ways to reduce stormwater pollution is with the proper disposal of lawn waste. Leaves and grass clippings can wash into storm drains, adding unwanted nutrients to streams.
Stop pollutants from making their way into the storm drain by avoiding over-watering as well as fertilizing before a rainstorm.
From May 13-20, the seventh annual Infrastructure Week is taking place with the support of hundreds of affiliates across the country. Infrastructure Week was created to help raise awareness for our country’s growing infrastructure needs and stress the message that we must #BuildForTomorrow. Led by a coalition of businesses, labor organizations and policy organizations, this week will unite the public and private sector to send this important message to leaders in Washington and beyond.
No matter where you live, your age, your education, if you drive a car or a truck or take the bus or a bicycle, infrastructure has a profound impact on your daily life. We all have to get around. We all need lights to come on and water to come out of the tap.
Consequently, too much of our nation’s infrastructure is under-maintained, too old, and over capacity. When it comes to water infrastructure alone, we are dealing with a massive network of pipes that are well over 100 years old. In short, droughts in western states have caused wells and reservoirs to fall dangerously low; saltwater intrusion of Florida’s drinking water infrastructure, and dam and levee failures in California, South Carolina, and Louisiana have caused evacuations and put hundreds of thousands of people and homes at risk.
The High Cost of Water Infrastructure
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A study conducted by the American Water Works Association revealed that the cost to replace our nation’s water infrastructures would cost more than one trillion dollars over the next 25 years.
No state, city, or county alone can tackle the growing backlog of projects of regional and national importance, and Americans get it: more than 79 percent of voters think it is extremely important for Congress and the White House to work together to invest in infrastructure.
For years, near-unanimous, bipartisan support for infrastructure investment has been steadily increasing. Leaders and voters have been rolling up their sleeves to spark efforts in the rebuilding and modernizing of transportation, water, and energy systems. Certainly, large strides have been made as a country, but there is still a lot to be done.
Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes The Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which grades the current state of the nation’s infrastructure on a scale between A and F. The last survey from 2017 gave tremendous insight into the state of our infrastructure surrounding drinking water, dams, and wastewater.
Drinking Water Infrastructure
The drinking water that we get in our homes and businesses all comes from about one million miles of pipes across the country. While the majority of those pipes were laid in the early to mid-20th century, many are showing signs of deterioration. There are many reasons for a water main to break including localized influences such as aggressive soil and weather conditions, as well as poor design/construction. Approximately 240,000 occur each year, consequently resulting in the waste of two trillion gallons of treated drinking water. Drinking Water received a grade of D.
The average age of the 90,000+ dams in the United States is 56. Nearly 16,000 (~17%) have been classified as high-hazard potential. Dam failures not only risk public safety, they also can cost our economy millions of dollars in damages as well as the impairment of many other infrastructure systems, such as roads, bridges, and water systems. As a result, emergency action plans (EAPs) for use in the event of a dam failure or other uncontrolled release of water are vital. As of 2015, 77% of dams have EAPs – up from 66% in the last 2013 Report Card. Dams received a grade of D.
There are approximately 15,000 wastewater treatment plants across the U.S that are critical for protecting public health and the environment. In the next 15 years, it is expected that there will be 56 million new users connected to the centralized treatment system. This need comes with an estimated $271 billion cost. Maintaining our nation’s wastewater infrastructure is imperative for the health and well being of the 76% of the country that rely on these plants for sanitary water. Wastewater received a grade of D+.
In the water sector alone, it’s clear how heavily we rely on solid infrastructure. If the issues in our nation’s water infrastructure are not addressed, millions of people as well as our environment will be at risk. Many communities around the country are working hard to deliver projects to solve these problems – but there is always more to be done. Reversing the trajectory after decades of under-investment requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people. Join us this week to help spotlight the continued advocacy and education of infrastructure needs. Afterall, this is the true foundation that connects our country’s communities, businesses, and people.
Finding information about local water is simple. As required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, water utilities must provide customers with an annual water quality report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). A CCR identifies the quality of local drinking water and if any contaminants are detected and if so, which ones. Also available in the report is information on a community’s local source for drinking water. The city of Marlborough, MA, home to Tata & Howard’s headquarters, uses an average of 4 million gallons of water a day. Currently, 100 percent of the water is supplied by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA).
Additionally, information on local source water is available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “How’s My Waterway?”
“As engineers in the water space, water is at the heart of everything we do,” said Tata & Howard Co-President, Karen Gracey, P.E. “Knowing the source of our water and keeping it clean is critical and we hope Drinking Water Week will serve as an opportunity for everyone to learn more about this vital piece of our daily lives.”
More information about local water sources is available on DrinkTap.org.
About Drinking Water Week
For more than 40 years, AWWA and its members have celebrated Drinking Water Week, a unique opportunity for both water professionals and the communities they serve to join together in recognizing the vital role water plays in daily lives. Additional information about Drinking Water Week, including free materials for download and celebration ideas, is available on the Drinking Water Week webpage.
Founded in 1992, Tata & Howard, Inc. is a 100% employee-owned water, wastewater, stormwater, and environmental services consulting engineering firm dedicated to consistently delivering innovative, cost-effective solutions in the water environment. Tata & Howard has gained a solid reputation as an industry leader in the Northeast by bringing knowledge, integrity, and dedicated service to all-sized markets, both public and private. The firm has offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Arizona. For more information, visit www.tataandhoward.com
Established in 1881, the American Water Works Association is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource. With approximately 51,000 members, AWWA provides solutions to improve public health, protect the environment, strengthen the economy and enhance our quality of life.
Have you thought lately about the overall health of your business? In today’s economy, it’s important to not only deliver your service, but to operate effectively and efficiently. An excellent way to gain insight into this is through conducting a Business Practice Evaluation (BPE). A BPE assesses the health of a utility by developing the framework for a structured approach to managing, operating, and maintaining assets in a more business-like manner. The goal would be to minimize the total cost of operating, managing and maintaining utility assets while still delivering exceptional service to customers. This is accomplished by providing more effective preventive maintenance to reduce capital investment.
The evaluation process will ultimately enable utility managers to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of their business practices in comparison to industry standards. Developing system specific plans, programmatic approaches, and realistic timelines to optimize utility programs are included in this process.
Similar to management consulting services, a BPE has potential to bring incredible value to your utility. While the list of benefits is copious, here are a few of the major advantages of conducting a Business Practice Evaluation.
Next Level Growth
Firstly, conducting a BPE will provide a baseline of exactly where a utility or company’s business practices currently are. Through a rating criterion, findings report, and subsequent scoresheet, the opportunities for improvement will become clear. A company can then make modifications to their business practices to reach the next level of efficiency and effectiveness.
As a manager, it may be hard to focus on the cause of an issue when you are immersed in it every day. Conducting a BPE will allow for an industry expert to look at a situation objectively and make the best-informed recommendations based on the BPE’s proven history of success.
A successful Business Practice Evaluation will help companies cut costs by simplifying and refocusing existing business practices. Expert BPE consultants can look at costs from a different lens and offer insights based on data and effective-practice knowledge.
Improved Communication and Relationships
In big and small companies alike, communication is key. An open line of communication is particularly critical between management and field personnel in water and wastewater utilities. Through field observations of current business practices, valuable insights in reference to efficiency and effectiveness will be provided. Management and field personnel can then identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement, as well as come to a consensus in all business practices. A successful BPE will help to eliminate the fissure between management and field staff, eliminating the ‘us versus them’ mentality.
A Business Practice Evaluation is completed through a series of interviews within a diagonal slice of utility staff. Recommendations from the BPE findings report will aid in staff accountability by identifying and implementing realistic performance measures. For example, the report may show within the Administration category that an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is not in place. Subsequently, a Public Water Supplier could then take the necessary steps to implement an ERP and provide staff with the required ERP training.
A Way Forward
One of the most valuable pieces of information obtained from conducting a BPE is knowing where a business stands from a micro-level view. Once the scoresheet is complete, a company can determine if their primary business functions are being efficiently and effectively managed (or not). Moreover, the risks and consequences of not moving forward with proposed recommendations are identified. Having this information allows management the ability to prioritize business practices and supporting attributes, and sets the business on the right path going forward.
Improved Quality of Life
Changes resulting from the completed Business Practice Evaluation have the potential to improve quality of life and staff morale by communicating and providing a clear management plan to move forward. While improvements may not always be evident prior to the BPE, management and staff alike will be happy when positive changes are made. With more efficient and effective business practices and improved communication, the business continues to thrive.
Interested in the full scope of the Business Practice Evaluation? See the step-by-step process below.
Review utility documents and documentation of business practices
Develop rating criteria to determine level of performance of business practices
Develop business practice categories and supporting attributes scoresheet with the assistance of your utility staff
Conduct kick-off, consensus, and findings workshops
Conduct interviews within a diagonal slice of the organization
Conduct field observations of current business practices (not people)
Develop a BPE findings report
Develop a BPE scoresheet from the findings report
In conclusion, it is critical to stay on top of internal functionality regardless of the type of business you operate. Keep in mind, no matter how well-oiled a machine is, there is always room for growth and improvements. Organizations that have conducted a BPE significantly improve the management, operations and maintenance efficiency of their utility.
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