Value of LID
Stormwater pollution occurs on a staggering scale. Nationwide, “an estimated 10 trillion gallons of untreated stormwater per year runs off roofs, roads, parking lots, and other paved surfaces, often through the sewage systems, into rivers and waterways that serve as drinking water supplies and flow to our beaches, increasing health risks, degrading ecosystems, and damaging tourist economies.” The U.S. EPA has declared stormwater runoff and pollution to be the “Nation’s largest source of water quality problems.”
Lake George is among the most extensively studied water bodies for the effects of stormwater runoff on water quality. More than 30 years of water chemistry monitoring at Lake George reveals a decline in lake health including measurable losses to the lake’s signature water clarity. The “Queen of American Lakes” provides an ideal test bed for demonstrating how to reduce stormwater impacts through application of Low Impact Development (LID). LID practices manage stormwater as near to its source as possible, allowing for, rather than altering, the natural processes that filter and clean runoff entering the lake.
In promoting the broadest possible application of LID, this System serves two purposes. First, it seeks to inform anyone interested in understanding the importance of and need for LID. Secondly, it serves to empower implementation of LID practices through The Lake George LID Certification System. Illustrated instructions are provided on how to apply for LID Certification with selected examples of LID techniques used in common site conditions. In addition to full certification, guidance is included on creating a LID Certified Landscape. For property owners wanting to learn what they can do to improve their sites and protect water quality, the LID Audit program offers recommendations tailored to specific needs.
Generally perceived as dangerous only during major storms or flooding, rainfall presents a more insidious, and no less destructive, threat in the form of runoff. Natural landscapes, including the forested tracts that still surround much of Lake George, provide a ring of protection from runoff impacts. Trees, understory, and soils act like a sponge when it rains, absorbing small rain showers and slowing larger storms. Rainfall filters through the vegetation and soils often never reaching a waterway as “stormwater runoff.”
This natural process changes radically when rain lands on roads, rooftops, and lawns that have little or no absorptive capacity. Instead, rainfall “runs off,” picking up pollutants and sediments along the way until reaching a water body where they are ultimately deposited. Sediments reduce water clarity and smother bottom habitats; nutrients from lawn fertilizers and septic systems cause algae to proliferate; metals and chemicals from roofs, vehicles, roads and more, can exert toxic effects on fish and other aquatic life.
Even though Lake George measures 32 miles long, nearly three miles wide, and 200 feet deep, it is exhibiting the ill effects of stormwater runoff. The adverse impacts of intensifying land use in the Lake George watershed requires a deliberate change in development practices to avoid reaching an “ecological tipping point” that scientists warn will lead to irreversible degradation of water quality.
Unlike many ecological threats that are beyond individual or local control, stormwater runoff and pollution can be solved at its source by applying Low Impact Development standards to new and already established building sites.
Low Impact Development: “Allows natural infiltration to occur as close as possible to the original area of rainfall. By engineering terrain, vegetation, and soil features to perform this function, costly conveyance systems can be avoided and the landscape can retain more of its natural hydrologic function.”
National Homebuilders Association
LID employs cost effective practices that property owners, developers, maintenance staff, and others can readily implement to mitigate stormwater runoff from our built environment. LID restores the filtering function of forests and other natural landscapes that protect watersheds and water quality. Wisely applied, LID enables buildings, roads, and landscapes to “work more like a forest” when it rains. The environmental and economic benefits of LID, for Lake George and similar environments, accrue for generations to come.
LID Certification at Lake George
The LID Certification System at Lake George guides and rewards development that mimics and maintains natural drainage patterns, site features, and hydrology that absorb, cleanse, and filter stormwater. Environmentally sound engineering practices and established techniques make this possible, working with, rather than against, nature. No less important, LID Certification works with development professionals to ensure success.
Created by a team of leading specialists and practitioners, the trademarked LID Certification System scores development projects on 35 specific credits across four categories of performance—Protect, Build, Restore, Maintain. Given the diffuse and widely varying nature of stormwater problems, LID Certification is comprehensive and can be employed for private and public development, both new and redevelopment projects. Three levels of LID Certification are possible—Platinum, Gold, and Silver—based on scores received.