City of Durham, N.C. Department of Public Works Awarded 2015 EPA Region 4 Rain Catcher Award

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Durham LogoThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the City of Durham Department of Public Works with the regional 2015 EPA Rain Catcher Award in the Municipal Category for the Rain Catchers project in Durham, N.C. The award was given at a ceremony during the EPA Region 4/International Erosion Control Association Municipal Wet Weather Stormwater Conference, in Atlanta, Ga.

The Rain Catchers project was implemented by the City of Durham to install and evaluate low-impact development retrofits to residential properties. The objective of the project is to reduce pollutants and storm surge in a sub-watershed of Ellerbe Creek by building small-scale projects on private property. Site selection was conducted through an innovative reverse auction process to reduce project costs. Out of 880 residents contacted for participation in the project, 156 sites were slated and ranked for rain gardens, cisterns and tree suitability. Project participants were surveyed later in an effort to track the expectations of the participants, understanding of the project, and whether they were maintaining the installations. After 18 months of monitoring, directing rooftop runoff to rain gardens and cisterns has reduced runoff volumes by 47-97 percent. The study was able to successfully demonstrate that downspout disconnection can be an effective stormwater control measure to reduce volume through infiltration and attenuating peak flow. The study also showed that using soil treatments can provide an additional volume and peak flow treatment.

The EPA Region 4 Rain Catcher Award recognizes excellence in the implementation of stormwater green infrastructure practices. Green infrastructure uses natural systems and/or engineered systems designed to mimic natural processes to more effectively manage urban stormwater and reduce receiving water impacts. EPA and its partner organizations have promoted the use of green infrastructure for many years as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving healthier waters. Green infrastructure reduces the volume of stormwater discharges by managing rainwater close to where it falls and removes many of the pollutants present in runoff, making it an effective strategy for addressing wet weather pollution and improving water quality.