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Home > Resources & Publications > Newsletters & Magazines > Chenier Ecology > 2007 > 3-07

Resources & Publications:  Chenier Ecology

March 2007

Approximately 80 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of an impaired waterway. What is an impaired waterway? It’s a river, lake or stream that, because of pollution levels, is not meeting water quality standards for its designated use, such as fishing, swimming or as a drinking water source.

Through regulations and permitting, most point sources of pollution have reduced contaminated effluents to as low as technology will allow. Point-source pollution generally comes from the wastewater discharged from the pipes of industrial facilities and municipal sewage treatment plants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the major remaining source of water quality impairment is from nonpoint source pollution. These sources include stormwater runoff from forestry operations; row crop, pasture, and range agriculture; lawns and gardens; roads, highways, and parking lots; as well as natural areas.

Urban sprawl and its accompanying increase in impervious surface area and improved drainage put an increasing burden on natural floodplains and coastal areas. According to the Pews Ocean Commission (2003), sprawling development in the coastal areas of the U.S. is consuming land at five times the rate of population growth. And, coastal counties, which comprise 17 percent of the land area, are inhabited by over half of the U.S. population. In order to maintain and restore water quality, it will take an effort by all land use interests within each watershed.

One of the major issues facing urban/residential areas is the management of stormwater runoff.

There are two consequences of urban sprawl concerning stormwater – water quality and water quantity. Simply, what this means is that as we sprawl out from the urban areas into the rural countryside, the amount of impervious surfaces increase and improved drainage carries stormwater away from areas which previously stored and infiltrated water. This increases the risk of flooding to residential and business properties. Also, the inability of runoff waters to contact vegetation and soil increases the amount of pollutants it carries, such as nutrients, sediment and pathogens. This situation is not unique to our area, but is a common occurrence nationwide.

Population densities in other parts of the country have reached critical levels before coastal Louisiana, so they have had to deal with these issues through ordinances, building codes and implementation of best management practices (BMP’s) for urban stormwater. We are approaching population densities and sprawl which will require action. This is indicated by the many municipal and parish areas listed on the Stormwater Phase II permitting requirements. In the near future coastal Louisiana communities will see an increased focus on stormwater management, development of ordinances to reduce nonpoint pollution and implementation of best management practices.

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