Restoration and World Water Day

A big impact on the water quality of Lake Wingra, its watershed, and the UW-Madison Arboretum comes from storm water.  Each year, over 110 million cubic feet (over 822 million gallons; or enough to fill several bathtubs) flows overland picking up nutrients, sediments, and pollutants that end up fouling the area’s streams, wetlands, and Lake Wingra itself.

Lake Wingra, Madison, Wisconsin in summer, 2011. The concrete structure in lower right is a storm water outfall structure that deposits unfiltered and untreated urban runoff into the Lake. In this spot, the lake is in fact used as a storm water pond and “treatment” facility. The culvert was replaced in a City of Madison storm water project in about 2010 and a nearby area of the lake was dredged to remove accumulated sediments that made the near shore waters practically too shallow for a canoe. Photo by Stephen B. Glass.

Restoration Need and Storm Water Management Opportunities

Yesterday, on the eve of World Water Day, from distant corners, came two suggestions for incorporating restoration into  storm water management to achieve the desired outcomes of water conservation and improved water quality.  Although not directed at Madison, I believe these suggestions are applicable in Madison and especially the Lake Wingra Watershed.   Judge for yourself.

First, from Brian Cochran, a restoration ecologist in central Oregon (@cochranb) is the suggestion to “loose the rip rap”.  Brian tweeted a link to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publication entitled “Engineering With Nature: Alternative Techniques to RipRap Bank Stabilization”.  FEMA is basically fed-up with picking up the pieces and paying the price for flooding costs associated with failed traditional stream bank riprap (stones) stabilization.

We’ve all seen riprap (field stones, or limestone pieces of varies sizes) stacked on stream banks and storm water ponds to stabilized the soil.  According to FEMA riprap does not do the job intended.

The FEMA report profiles ten case studies from Washington State in which a variety of alternative stream bank stabilization techniques accomplished the desired outcomes.

As another example,  from via @aquatic_habitat, we received the reminder that ” . . . Every Sustainable Aquatic Restoration Project Matters.”   This report points out that: “Some 70 percent of urban water quality problems are the result of contaminated stormwater runoff.  Runoff from developed areas can contain oil, grease, excessive nutrients, pathogens, and heavy metals.”  Because of this the importance of land use impacts can’t be over emphasized.  Troutheadwaters calls for the same kind of restoration and alternative approaches illustrated in the FEMA report.

Oh, were it only so that some of these ideas and alternative approaches could have been  more widely used on the Secret Pond project in the Arboretum.

About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist, Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (#0093 SER) and writer living in the Midwestern United States.
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