Water Project Assistance

Help is available to Central MA communities for stormwater management or water supply planning.   The Water Resources Outreach Center (WROC) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) issued a Request for Proposals from municipal boards and watershed groups for student projects. The WROC application form can be submitted by email until February 15.MB sample WPI team reduced (600x800)

WROC faculty and students will partner on projects to provide education, training and assistance on community water resource issues. The WROC will work with applicants to define and complete non-advocacy projects that:

  • provide useful results
  • meet the needs of the project sponsor
  • provide opportunity for students to apply their education to practical issues


A WROC project will be completed by two student teams, with each team consisting of 3 – 4 students. One team will complete a water resource project in fall 2015; and a subsequent team will complete a complementary project in spring 2016.

Typical outcomes include a student team report prepared with guidance from WROC advisors, which describes project results and recommendations. The team will also prepare a presentation about the project findings and other specific deliverables requested by the project sponsor.

The project sponsor is expected to:

  • Pay administrative costs for support of student project
  • Assist students in securing information to address the issue
  • As appropriate, provide space for students to work on the project
  • Facilitate student engagement with the issue and the community

The full Request for Proposals provides details and the application form. To request the RFP, contact WROC Co-Director Corey Dehner by email: cdehner@wpi.edu


MS4 Comments Extension

The EPA stormwater permit comment period is extended to February 27.  This extra time affords more opportunity to submit concerns and suggestions for the EPA Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits in Massachusetts.

Proposed new rules augment the 2003 MS4 Permit and enable communities to better protect streams, lakes and wetlands. Local and national surveys find people are very concerned about water pollution and strongly support measures to improve local water resources. Municipal officials and departments share these concerns and are eager to prevent and fix stormwater problems.

MS4 012215 blog slide

MS4 provisions would require permittees to update Stormwater Management Programs that entail 6 control measures. These include public education and participation as essential measures to inform and engage people. Many low-cost ways to reduce runoff through community development can be realized as more people learn how streets can be disconnected from streams.


Likewise, proposed regulations for Construction Site Control and Good Housekeeping enable proactive ways to remove pollutant sources for less cost. Additionally, there are new rules for Post Construction measures that include:

  • Design of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to handle the first inch of storm runoff
  • Installation of BMPs in accord with the Massachusetts Stormwater Handbook
  • Long-term maintenance to ensure structural BMPs continue to function well
  • Permittee review of development guidelines to limit creation of impervious cover

For more details about the draft MS4 general permit and the public comments period, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region1/npdes/stormwater/MS4_MA.html

Greener Development

Community growth can revive the health of local streams and lakes. Creating “Green Infrastructure” is a practical means to reduce polluted runoff, and the EPA provides community assistance to advance this approach.


EPA: Green Street Planters

Green Infrastructure (GI) uses natural processes to better manage stormwater and curb its impacts on local waters. GI methods include preservation of trees and removal of impervious areas, as well as structural practices such as rain gardens and permeable pavements. These methods treat rain as a resource rather than waste, and can have a positive role in community development by restoring aquatic life and renewing uses of brooks and ponds.

In October 2013, EPA released a new strategic agenda (PDF) (7 pp, 982K) that outlines how it is helping communities to design and use GI methods.   This strategic agenda notes that GI helps communities “… stretch their infrastructure investments further by providing multiple environmental, economic, and community benefits. This multi-benefit approach creates sustainable and resilient water infrastructure that supports and revitalizes urban communities.” Ongoing EPA actions provide partnerships and technical assistance for cities and towns across the country, including Barnstable, Chelsea, Fall River and Franklin in Massachusetts.

Download reports about local GI activities and more details on how the EPA is supporting Green Infrastructure are at http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/gi_support.cfm

Saving Small Streams

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABabbling brooks are delightful.   Small streams also make up the bulk of river systems.  In other words, rivers join together myriad tributaries to move rain and snowmelt from the land down to the seas.

It’s likely several streams are within a mile or two of your home.  Many go unnoticed as people quickly drive on roads that run beside and over nearby waterways.  But small streams offer enticing places to see stream life that is vital to the quality of our environment.

Healthy streams have winding channels and brushy banks that filter the water. Natural streams form riffle and pool habitats for fish and other stream life. Canopies of streamside trees provide habitats for birds and mammals, keep water temperatures cool for fish, and prevent soil erosion.

In urban and suburban places where most people live, stormwater is the crucial threat to healthy streams.  As more homes and businesses add runoff, the severity of flooding increases, stream beds erode, water quality declines and aquatic life vanishes. Other signs of damage are thick deposits of sand, cloudy water, excess algae and low stream flows during dry months of the year.  Streams also carry the polluted runoff into lakes, spurring rampant weeds and toxic algae blooms that spoil swimming, boating and other recreation uses.

There are many simple low-cost ways to keep polluted runoff from harming streams.  Examples are streamside vegetation buffers, rain gardens, infiltrating bioswales and sediment basins.

To learn more about small stream ecology, see the excellent paper by the Stroud Water Research Center at http://www.stroudcenter.org/research/PDF/ProtectingHeadwaters.pdf.   For guidance on how to fix stormwater problems that harm urban and suburban streams, a free Stream Care Guide can be downloaded from the MWC website at http://www.commonwaters.org/resources/bgy-resources .