In 2016, the Rutland Natural Resources Conservation District (RNRCD) treated 1.25 acres of impervious surface at Rutland Town School through implementation of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), defined as practices that restore and maintain natural hydrologic processes. This project, a result of collaboration between RNRCD and the Rutland Town Select and School Board, aimed to reduce the volume and water quality impact of stormwater runoff. A secondary goal was identification of areas in Rutland County that contributed to runoff into East Creek, listed in the State of Vermont 2012 List of Priority Surface Waters Outside the Scope of Clean Water Act Section 303(d) Part C., Surface Waters In Need of Further Assessment for both sediment and temperature. East Creek is a slow-moving, nutrient-rich stream that flows into Lake Champlain and serves as the lifeline for 800 acres of wetlands; a critical habitat of waterfowl and many species of fish. Additionally, the creek drains 21,000 acres of surrounding land (Nature Conservancy). By creating greater infiltration methods, the total volume and peak flow rates of stormwater runoff to East Creek can be reduced.
Rutland Natural Resources Conservation District (RNRCD) was awarded a Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VTDEC) Ecosystem Restoration Program Grant to design green stormwater management practices at Rutland Town School. Runoff at the school, lacking any formal treatment, drained through catch basins and pipes. Known as gray infrastructure, these antiquated practices do little to improve water quality and often contribute to unhealthy stream flow. With the funding, RNRCD hired Enman-Kesselring Consulting Engineers to design green practices including rock swales, rain gardens, and an infiltration trench on school grounds. Installation was done by the Rutland Town Highway Department. The Town Highway Foreman recruited retired teachers from the school to plant native vegetation in the rain garden. This connected community with conservation and now provides on-site opportunities for students to engage in science and engineering.
In total, the green stormwater practices treat stormwater draining from 1.25 acres of impervious surface, with 4.038 cubic feet of water treated during an average rainfall event of 0.9 inches. Rutland County experiences 40.46 inches of average rainfall annually, signifying that over the course of a year, this project potentially treats over 180,000 cubic feet of runoff (NOAA, National Weather Service Forecast Office, Burlington Vermont, Rutland Vermont Climatology).
While we will always need effective and well-engineered gray infrastructure, recognition of the need for parallel natural, sustainable, and holistic infrastructure has increased in Vermont, due to projects such as this that improve water quality while restoring natural ecosystem functions. Since 1960, average annual precipitation in Vermont has increased 5.9 inches, with almost half of the increase occurring since 1990. Rutland County now experiences 10-12 days of extreme prescription a year, an increase from only four (UVM Gund Institute). More water will be running through our streams and rivers, arriving ever faster and warmer. This results in greater rainfall flowing across impervious surfaces — roofs, driveways, parking lots, etc. By replacing impervious surfaces with practices that utilize infiltration, evapotranspiration, and storage, RNRCD reduced pollutants entering downstream ecosystems, contributing to the health and vitality of the local watershed.
For questions, contact Nanci McGuire, District Manager of Rutland NRCD at email@example.com.