News & Insights

A Q&A on Washington, D.C.’s Stormwater Retention Trading Program

October 29, 2015 | Posted in Rainwater Collection

The Department of Energy and Environment (previously known as the District Department of Energy) has recently implemented an innovative credit trading program in Washington D.C. that is designed to encourage investment in responsible rainwater management. The program has been recognized as an international model for stormwater runoff management and is part of the District’s push to make all waterways fishable and swimmable by the year 2032. This week’s blog features more about this program, information about rainwater management systems, and how Tanks Direct is assisting in making D.C. a more sustainable city.

Rain falling on ground

A Q&A on Washington, D.C.’s Stormwater Retention Trading Program

What are stormwater retention credits?
The DDoE’s program is based on the trading of Stormwater Retention Credits (SRCs) which offers an incentive for businesses and organizations to make investments in green infrastructure that significantly reduces stormwater runoff. SRCs are generated when properties make voluntary improvements that go above and beyond the basic requirements of stormwater management standards.

Under current regulations on stormwater management in the District of Columbia, new development projects (i.e. those that were approved after January of 2014) that disturb more than 5,000 square feet of land must meet certain stormwater retention standards that are intended to protect local rivers and watersheds. Specifically, the rule calls for the retention of the first 1.2” of rainfall on the site through a combination of on-site and off-site rainwater harvesting. Under the Stormwater Retention Credit program, new construction sites will be allowed to use SRCs to meet a portion of this requirement by retaining up to half of their stormwater in offsite locations so long as they own the SRCs by the end of the construction period, which generally takes a year or longer.

The trades incentivize properties to invest in green infrastructure while protecting our local waterways. For projects unable to invest in substantial rainwater management projects, SRCs allow a degree of flexibility in complying with regulated development. These credits also help to pay back a portion of the costs associated with infrastructure upgrades, making it a win-win for developers as well as the watersheds of Washington, D.C.

Stormwater Retention Trading Program

Why is stormwater management important? Why should it be incentivized?
During heavy rainfall, impervious surfaces such as parking lots, rooftops, and roads do not allow rainwater to be absorbed into the soil, resulting in large amounts of water traveling directly into our waterways. Stormwater runoff quickly becomes contaminated with pollutants, oil, garbage, and debris which is transported directly to our watersheds. In the District of Columbia, 43% of the land is made up of impervious surfaces which creates huge surges of water during heavy storms that not only contaminate local water sources but can also cause the erosion of stream banks over time.

In order to prevent this massive surge of polluted water from entering our streams and rivers, stormwater management strategies strive to increase the amount of permeable land that can absorb rainwater or to harvest and store the water before it becomes runoff. There are a number of rainwater management systems, including rain harvesting tanks, green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavement. Rainwater harvesting systems allow rainwater to be collected and stored for non-drinking purposes such as toilet flushing, irrigation, cooling tower makeup water, and wash-bay water.

The Stormwater Retention Trading program offers a financial incentive to help support properties that are interested in becoming more responsible in their water stewardship by going above and beyond the regulated minimums for stormwater management. It also makes investing in green infrastructure more affordable as the credits can help to offset some of the initial cost of eco-friendly investments.

Grate covering, Sewer Storm water sump

What are the eligibility requirements to participate in the program?
In order to be eligible to participate in the Stormwater Retention Credit trading program, properties must meet certain requirements. These requirements are different for properties that are interested in generating SRCs than they are for properties that want to offset their stormwater retention requirements by purchasing SRCs.

SRC purchasing requirements

In order to purchase SRCs, a property must:

  • Meet the definition of a “major land-disturbing activity” or a “major substantial improvement activity” according to the District’s stormwater regulations
  • Be able to manage at least 50% of their stormwater retention volume on-site before seeking an off-site solution
  • Be able to demonstrate that it is technically unfeasible or environmentally irresponsible to meet the 50% requirement and prove that they must rely on SRCs to fulfill their full stormwater retention volume requirements

Requirements for generating SRCs

To generate and trade SRCs, a property must:

  • Utilize design and installation practices that are in line with DDOE-approved Stormwater Management Plans
  • Create a proposal that exceeds the retention requirements or capacity of the property but falls below the SRC ceiling.
  • Complete construction prior to generating SRCs
  • Pass periodic maintenance inspections

How do I get started generating Stormwater Retention Credits?
If your project meets all of the requirements for generating Stormwater Retention Credits then the first step in the process involves submitting your plans to the DDOE using their Stormwater Database. Given the complexities of the program, you may be interested in attending one of the DDOE’s public training sessions on how to use the stormwater database. These sessions are coming up soon on November 5th and November 19th so act quickly if you are interested in participating! If you prefer to absorb the material on your own then reading through the Stormwater Management Guidebook will offer important insights into how to get started and remain in compliance with all regulations.

Do other areas offer stormwater retention credits?
The Stormwater Retention Credit trading program is the first of its kind in the nation to offer such an innovative solution for responsible environmental management. In September of 2014, the program was recognized at the International Climate Leadership awards as one of the most cutting-edge climate programs in the world.

Aerial view of Washington D.C.

How is Tanks Direct affiliated with implementing rainwater management solutions?
Tanks Direct has the ability to supply and install a complete rainwater harvesting storage and treatment package. We have many longstanding relationships with rainwater harvesting treatment skid companies and tank manufacturers and can offer a competitive package that meets any site requirements. We have participated in over 30 projects in the past few years with various applications including stormwater storage tanks, irrigation water tanks, non-potable reuse tanks, and various treatment skids. As the exclusive master distributor of Xerxes Fiberglass tanks, we can offer the most comprehensive turn-key system in the local market. We are proud to support rainwater harvesting projects and have installed a number of these systems throughout the District of Columbia and beyond. Here are two examples of our recent projects involving rainwater harvesting:

Canal Park
Canal Park, a public park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood of D.C., is dedicated to providing a sustainable and green gathering place for neighbors. As part of their LEED Gold-certified water reuse initiative, Tanks Direct provided Canal Park with two 40,000 gallon rainwater harvesting tanks. These tanks collect rainwater from rooftops and help to alleviate contaminated runoff from entering local watersheds such as the Patapsco, the Anacostia, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School
Mundo Verde is the first “green” public charter school in the District of Columbia and as part of their commitment to sustainability, Tanks Direct installed a 20,000-gallon rainwater storage tank complete with a filtration unit and all accessories. The school was recently designated by the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School thanks to the tireless efforts of its students and staff in areas such as green infrastructure and operations, sustainability literacy, and environmental health and wellness. Committed to empowering students to become passionate stewards of their environment, their rainwater management system was an important element of their green infrastructure.

Are you interested in installing a rainwater management system on your property? Trust Tanks Direct to get the job done right! With over two decades of experience and a variety of both underground and aboveground stormwater storage tank solutions, we can work with you to find a stormwater management system that suits your unique needs. From large Xerxes fiberglass tanks to small basement rainwater reclamation tanks, we have the solution for your rainwater management needs.

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