PROTECTING OUR WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES
A Model for Incorporating Water Resources Protection into Local Land Use Decisions
Brian K. Miller, Assistant
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
Robert McCormick, Coordinator
Planning with POWER
Leslie Dorworth, Aquatic Ecology
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program
Land use, water quality, and natural resource stability are inseparable. In fact, nonpoint source water pollution, caused by polluted runoff from the land, is the number one water quality problem in the United States. Efforts to combat this threat are focusing primarily on changing the individual behaviors of land users, but few programs address the impact of land use policies, which are created and enforced at the town, city and county levels. Ultimately, protection of the nation's water and natural resources will depend upon educating local land use officials about the links between land use and water quality, and providing them with ideas and tools to take action at the local level.
The Planning with POWER (Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources) Project is a statewide educational program that links land use planning with watershed planning at the local level. Planning with POWER is coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program (IISG) and Purdue Cooperative Extension Service (CES). The project capitalizes on two successful, ongoing statewide education and technical assistance projects: Purdue's Extension Land Use Team. made up of Extension educators who assist local communities on land use planning issues, and the Conservation Partnership composed of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Soil and Water Conservation Division (SWCD), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Cooperative Extension Service (CES) staff who assist local communities with watershed planning.
Planning with POWER is a model program demonstrating that education of local officials, supported by scientific technology, can become a catalyst for natural resource protection at the local level. This program empowers land use decision-makers and citizens to identify water and environmental resources risks their community faces and to develop strategies and policies that will protect these resources while accommodating growth in their community. New technologies and scientific data are used to identify a community's water and other natural resource assets and to weigh land use change and policy options that will allow for growth but protect vital environmental resources.
Planning with POWER helps decision-makers look holistically at all of a community's environmental assets. Indicators of urbanization are used in a zoning-based build-out analysis to identify future environmental problem areas and land use planning actions that will reduce the potential for water pollution and natural resourced degradation.
The Planning with POWER message is simple. Through a three-tiered strategy of 1) natural resource-based planning, 2) improving site design and using of best management practices, 3) remediation and maintenance, water and other natural resources can be protected while allowing for compatible economic growth.
Once armed with this knowledge, local officials are better able to incorporate natural resource protection into their everyday decisions. In addition, water quality concerns become a part of local debates on topics as different as road width and curbing, landscape and neighborhood design, and open space planning.
Examples of decisions local officials face and natural resources protection measures they might employ:
Plan commissions and local land use decision-makers can address water resource protection in comprehensive plans by:
- Utilizing of best management practices (BMPs) to prevent, reduce and slow storm water runoff.
- Encouraging use of detention and retention basins in subdivision design to slow and hold storm water.
- Preserving and utilize natural or created wetlands for increased infiltration and storing excess storm water runoff.
- Slowing down the "expressway" of polluted runoff by utilizing grass swales, filter strips or vegetated buffers in place of curbing and piped drainage whenever possible.
- Ensuring regular maintenance such as sweeping streets, cleaning storm drains, and removing sediment from detention/retention ponds.
- Enforcing follow through on agreed upon site design with contractors.
- Enforcing proper on-site septic regulations for design and installation
- Encouraging proper maintenance and use of on-site septic systems by homeowners.
- Encouraging development in areas serviced by sewage treatment infrastructures.
- Encouraging common on-site waste disposal for a group of homes or development.
Open space (land without permanent structures) is composed of farm lands, managed green spaces (parks, golf courses, etc.) and wild lands.
Plan commissions and local land use decision-makers can protect natural resources, and the lands that provide them by:
- Utilizing agricultural BMPs such as riparian buffers and targeting open space as buffers between agricultural land and water resources.
- Targeting open space to protect critical wildlife habitat and travel corridors.
- Protecting key forest lands for recreation, environmental benefits, and future timber production.
- Protect prime farm land for future agriculture, food production, and wildlife habitat.
- Targeting open space in areas needed to collect and treat storm runoff.
- Target open space to protect ground and surface water supplies.
Plan commissions and local land use decision-makers addressing runoff can:
- Incorporate improved site designs.
- Minimize impervious surfaces.
- Minimize the disruption of natural drainage and vegetation.
- Use cluster development when feasible which reduces the total area of paved surfaces and increases open space.
- Recommend improved design of sidewalks, roads, and parking lots that reduces total surface area.
- Use brick, crushed stone or pervious pavement in low traffic areas.
- Direct drainage to vegetated swales instead of traditional curbing and piping.
- Encourage designs which reduce grading and filling and retain the natural features of the landscape.
Local officials can promote watershed management protection by:
- Education and increased citizen awareness about protecting the water and environment.
- Storm drain stenciling programs and hazardous waste disposal days.
Local officials can engage citizen participation by:
- Helping groups organize local citizen water quality monitoring programs.
- School teachers designing student projects on watershed management and land use planning
- "spin-off" research projects targeting water quality and impacts of local land use decisions
Planning with POWER was developed to create an adaptable model for combining Extension Education and high technology to educate the critical target audience-local land use officials.
Through a number of collaborations with other agencies and organizations, Planning with POWER will be involved in a wide range of education, research and technical assistance projects that continue to test and expand the model in Indiana.Planning with POWER is coordinated by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management had provided critical funding needed to initiate this statewide (Planning with POWER) project. An advisory committee provides direction on the development of this project and includes representatives from the following organizations: Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service; the Natural Resource Conservation Service; IDNR, Division of Soil Conservation; the Soil and Water Conservation Districts; Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program; Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM); and Indiana Land Resources Council (ILRC).
Local delivery and assistance provided by the Planning with POWER project is a collaborative effort between the Purdue Extension Land Use Team and the Conservation Partnership composed of CES, NRCS, SWCDs, and IDNR. Additional funding has been obtained from NOAA Coastal Services Center to do Geographic Information Services (GIS) build-out analysis work on three communities in Indiana. This analyses will serve as teaching tools and examples for other communities wishing to employ this approach.
Purdue University scientists are conducting research and developing products that communities can use when making planning decisions that protect natural resources. Some key projects that provide data and technical resources that can be used by communities that are "Planning with POWER" are detailed below:
Purdue Department of Agricultural and Biological
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural
The Planning with POWER project can help you to:
How Your Community Can Start Planning with Power
To learn more about how resources provided by the Planning with POWER project can assist your community, please contact:
1200 Forest Products Building
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1200
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Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program is 1 of 30 National Sea Grant College Programs. Created by Congress in 1966. Sea Grant combines university, government, business and industry expertise to address coastal and Great Lakes needs. Funding is provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.