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Extramural Research

CNS Discussion Synthesis

Smart Growth and Water Resources Protection

Best Management Practices

If greater numbers of people are to be accommodated over the next 20 years, it must be done in a more compact, high-density approach or available land will disappear and water quality will not be sustained. Concentrating development in existing communities and increasing population densities is good for overall regional watershed quality. To protect water resources within a specific community, various site-level strategies must be employed. These best management practices (BMPs) include using trees and landscaping to reduce runoff and designing redevelopment that includes mixed land use that accommodates greater populations and decreases impervious surfaces. In choosing a best practice, an integrated watershed management approach allows cities and agencies to examine the watershed to try to better understand what is taking place currently and what changes need to be made to ensure water quality. It is also crucial to quantify water resource improvement in response to smart growth so that protective and restorative measures are justified to the public and private sector.

CNS is supporting an effort in Portland, Oregon, that is examining the feasibility of using a credit trading system to create incentives for property owners to install small-scale, performance-based stormwater systems to meet specific goals for impervious area coverage, stormwater discharges and pollutant loads in areas served by combined sanitary and storm sewers and stormwater sumps. CNS is also supporting a project in Montgomery County, Maryland that is examining the effectiveness of BMP's relative to more traditional stormwater management practices.

A number of useful syntheses of stormwater BMP information are to be found on the web. Several states have stormwater BMP manuals exit EPA and EPA's Office of Water has posted information on urban stormwater BMPs. The International Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP) Database project web site features technical documents, software and database that provide scientifically sound information to improve the design, selection and performance of BMPs exit EPA. The Center for Watershed Protection exit EPA is developing a stormwater maintenance manual that will make available for download readily usable maintenance forms, updated maintenance cost data, ordinances, and other key elements of a good program.

Public and Multi-Sector Decision-Making

Community Outreach

In working with communities, it is important to create a positive environment that encourages collaborative partnerships. Neutral facilitation, ground rules, and a focus on building common vision help to create a positive environment for change, as does involving both partners and the community in information collecting. Empowerment through collaborative problem solving is also crucial in addressing environmental justice issues. One approach to fostering public involvement and communication is to build a consortium comprised of diverse sponsorship including academia, research, and scientific organizations; environmental, advocacy, and community groups; business, industry, and trade associations; municipal, state and federal agencies; and labor. This approach is able to engage the public and they, in turn, often provide valuable information and guidance as well as promote implementation of recommended strategies. A CNS-sponsored project is supporting development of such a consortium to identify and promote pollution prevention strategies for the New York/New Jersey Harbor watershed.

Making effective decisions requires a thoughtful balance between stability and nimbleness. Stable community-based organizations (particularly those responsive to government and business concerns) are key to providing leadership, vision, and continuity within partnerships. Nimble, not-for-profit organizations and entrepreneurial business can play the important role of catalyzing transformative change by acting strategically and striving for widespread impact.

EPA and the rest of the federal government must carefully consider potential roles in enabling effective public and multi-sector decision-making. One approach for encouraging local programs is for agencies to act as a resource broker for communities and create connections to places with the federal government where help is available. (For example, see EPA Collaborative Community and Regional Programs for links to some EPA Collaborative Community and Regional opportunities.) Government and other organizations can also facilitate the sharing of information and knowledge through the internet and other means. It is essential for federal agencies to continue to provide resources to communities, while also helping them develop their abilities to draw from other kinds of resources and funding.

The following web sites provide information on EPA's policy for public involvement, EPA tools for collaborative problem-solving, and Information on the Environmental Justice Collaborative Model (PDF) (67 pp, 4.52 MB).

Spatial Analytical Methods and Future Scenarios

Engaging the Public through Use of Scenarios

Future scenarios are stories, both qualitative and quantitative, about how the future could unfold, and reflect both where society wants to go in the future and the best possible ways to get to that point. Scenarios can: 1) inspire and motivate action; 2) provide early warnings about imminent dangers based on current trends; 3) generating data and knowledge about potential alternative pathways; and 4) providing legitimacy for early action on identified problems and issues. Because future scenarios explore possible situations 45 to 50 years into the future, there is tremendous uncertainty. Yet, the narrative aspect of scenarios, the non-quantified aspects, are important in capturing the dynamics of what is happening in a system and uncovering what kinds of values underlie the scenarios. Long-term scenarios can vary in scales, including spatial, thematic, and temporal. However, it is critical to link local or regional scenarios with global considerations. Good data and a strong knowledge of the available tools are needed to act effectively at the local level. It may be useful in developing scenarios to divide the studies into two parts: 1) the design and implementation of the assumptions for the scenarios, and 2) a more science-focused aspect of the program that evaluates the scenarios against specific outcomes. Besides being a decision-making tool, alternative futures can help raise awareness in new areas for early consideration and be a helpful way to examine possible future changes.

One of the projects funded by EPA's CNS program is developing futures scenarios for the Boston, MA, region. The short-term goals of this effort are to: 1) develop scenarios using the latest science that considers the social, environmental and economic elements of sustainability; 2)influence policy-making and motivate citizens to support policies to achieve a sustainable future for the region; and 3) promote networking of existing planning efforts taking place at different scales in the region. Three scenarios (Business as Usual, Policy Reform, and Deep Change) have been developed, are being refined, and will be shared with the public in a number of venues.

Information on futures at EPA is available from Office of Science Policy and Chief Financial Officer. Information on Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Environmental Futures Project exit EPA, supported by EPA, is also available.

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