I’m a proponent of knowing our why, or purpose, then working in alignment with it. It’s an effective approach to business and to life, and it can be applied regardless of what we happen to be working on. If we know why we’re doing it, our work is likely to be more clear, more effective and more productive. When our effort involves other people, and most of it does, we must also consider the why of those we need to help us achieve our objectives.
I didn’t make it to our community Christmas parade this year. I attended a wrestling parent meeting instead (meeting for parents of wrestlers, not one for wrestling parents). I must say, I was a bit disappointed when my wife and youngest daughter went to the parade without me. I was also disappointed to later find out that it wasn’t the parade we grew up with. The local dance studio didn’t dance, they just walked together in a mob. The local politicians didn’t throw candy, they just rode in vehicles with campaign signs stuck to the side. Two local radio stations had vehicles with loud speakers, but instead of playing Christmas music, they simply played the radio, complete with commercials.
I’m sure these folks and others had reasons for showing up. Some may have wanted to bring awareness to their cause or business; others may have been to support the community by paying the float fee as a donation (which could have been done without wasting everyone’s time); or marching in the parade may just be what they do – it’s what they’ve “always done.”
But many seemed to have missed out on one huge point: the parade isn’t about them. It’s about us. Sure, they can certainly gain personal benefit as a byproduct of doing good. But we didn’t show up to support them. We came to see a parade.
Why do you show up? Is it simply to be seen, or paid? Is it just what you do every day? Or, are you showing up to give us what we paid for? Our presence, our interest, our time, and other support for your cause is always less-than-guaranteed. I’m not sure why anyone would risk it.
We get to choose what we do today. We decide where we do it and how we do it. It’s hard to make those decisions without knowing the why.
The skills of a leader (or good parade coordinator) can also help. A simple reminder with the invitation might teach or help us willing servants to remember why you wanted us to help you in the first place. A quick poll of your patrons or stakeholders might reveal a service gap that you were not aware of. But leader, you above all others, have to remember that you also must decide to show up. Not for your sake, but for ours.
Communication is by far the most effective, most economical, and most efficient BMP we have available to us. Like other BMPs, we are obligated to implement it to the maximum extent practicable using best available technology. Use of best practices is expected as we plan, as we design, and as we build. We also have obligations to our profession, our clients, and to ourselves to use best practices as we develop professionally.
We are living in an amazing age of technological advances, particularly in the realm of communication. We have never had more access and opportunity for connection as we do right now. With or without our desire, we are connected socially, economically, and technologically to millions of people around the world. Even our niche profession is so connected that it is difficult to keep up.
One of the best formats that I have found to stay in touch with the advancement of our profession is LinkedIn. Some say LinkedIn is Facebook for professionals. I would like to think it is much better than that, but I’m not a Facebook user. I have personally made valuable connections to people, to information, to data, to technology, and to best practices through LinkedIn. Some of those connections came through updates posted by my network, many others came from conversations within LinkedIn discussion groups.
I serve on the EnviroCert International Board of Directors. I am also the chair of a newly forming Program Development Committee for the organization. Rob Anderson, Board Chairman, has described this committee as being “… a think-tank group consisting of the best technical and leadership minds in the organization to promote and direct the future of certifications…” Our vision is to increase the value of and the value to certified stormwater professionals. We will do this by focusing on leadership, relevance, and connection.
We have decided that one of the very best tools for advancing these three focus areas is LinkedIn discussion groups. EnviroCert will lead the stormwater profession by making available a platform for the very best minds in the industry to share very best practices with others seeking knowledge and information. To ensure the value of certified professionals, the committee will use these discussion groups as a place to monitor the pulse of our profession and the needs of society. The committee will inform other committees and the Board of gaps between society’s needs and certification standards, and make recommendations for filling these gaps. And through these discussion groups professionals will become connected to best technology and practices, to EnviroCert and its communities of practice, and to each other.
There are currently four communities of practice related to stormwater runoff represented within and by EnviroCert:
pollutant sources, transport, and treatment, represented by Certified Professionals in Water Quality (CPSWQ);
municipal, represented by Certified Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Specialists (CMS4S); and
land disturbance, represented by Certified Professionals in Erosion and sediment Control (CPESC);
inspection, represented by Certified Erosion and Sediment and Stormwater inspectors (CESSWI).
We have created a discussion group for each of the four communities of practice. All are subgroups of a common discussion group for EnviroCert International. Due to LinkedIn rules, one must be a member of a parent group in order to be a member of one of its subgroups.
These discussion groups are created for all stormwater professionals, certified or not.
So here is my request -
- join LinkedIn
- join the EnviroCert discussion group
- join one or all of the subgroups (CPSWQ, CMS4S, CPESC, and CESSWI)
- adjust your settings for each group
- click on the i (information and settings) at the upper right of the page
- for your community of practice group and the EnviroCert Group:
- check – send me an email for each new discussion.
- uncheck – send me a digest of activity (this might overload you with information)
- look over the rules (information and settings button again, then rules link)
- most important rules – Bring value. Bring ideas. Be professional. Be generous. Be nice.
- connect with me, EnviroCert staff and Board Directors, and other stormwater professionals inside and outside of your community of practice
- “like” the first post in each group you join (this is one way you can help share news of the new groups)
- share what’s new and exciting in your world with your profession
Comment here if you’d like, but I would rather hear what you think in group discussions. Thanks.
I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.
Foremost in the mainstream news this month was the ending of the comment period for a proposal aimed at clarifying the definition of Waters of the US. The mainstream news was a bit disappointing in relaying the facts. But then again, so were the most vocal of those quoted. I have also included a few articles on apparent effects of undiluted urban runoff on certain fish.
Enjoy this month’s Stormwater in the Mainstream brought to you by StormwaterTools.com and Google News.
KPVI News 6-
POCATELLO, ID. — This week the Pocatello Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce joined with more than 350 organizations in protesting the …
EPA officials say the proposed rule is designed to clarify which bodies of water are subject to the agency’s oversight under the Clean Water Act.
See realtime coverage
With pollution from industrial pipes closely regulated, cities and states are more often tackling stormwater runoff that results from everyday activities: oils from leaky cars, pesticides from lawns and other pollutants that wash off roads and …
Stormwater runoff that results from everyday activities – oils from leaky cars, pesticides from lawns and other pollutants – killed fish within four hours in a recent study.
Instead, it offers a discount of up to 75 percent of the fee to property owners who can prove that their private stormwater systems meet the highest standards for curbing runoff-related pollution. The rate to be charged won’t be established until a …
Michael Helfrich, of Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, is pictured at the Conowingo Dam. He is raising concern that silt and nutrient pollution attached to the sediment buildup at the dam could undermine restoration effort of the Chesapeake Bay.
The city is removing 19 street trees on State Street between Central Street and East Bay Drive as part of a larger project to improve treatment of stormwater runoff that currently drains untreated into Moxlie Creek, and eventually flows into East Bay …
As part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, the federal government requires every community, including those right here in the Valley, to come up with a way to manage stormwater runoff in an effort to maintain pollution and …
Last week, voters turned down a ballot measure that would raise money to combat the city’s storm water issues. Bach said he plans to ask the City Council to put a measure on April’s ballot, that would ask voters to approve new bonds to replace bonds …
“My hope is that we will find a way to make sure that we don’t reduce our commitment to solving the stormwater problems in Downers Grove,” Hose said.
One group in Michiana, the Michiana Stormwater Partnership, wants to change that and educate the public on how they can help to keep our waterways clean and free of pollutants.
West Coast Tasman MP Damien O’Connor says he has little faith in Tasman District Council’s ability to manage the proposed Waimea dam, given what he sees as its “inability” to manage an erosion issue at Pakawau, that residents are prepared to pay to …
But far too many of the streams and wetlands that flow into the Chesapeake, along with more than half of the streams that crisscross our state, do not have guaranteed protections under the Clean Water Act. That means developers could build over our …
It correctly noted serious water quality impairment owing to stormwater, and new state efforts to curtail these contaminants.
Overflows are discharged into local waterways to avoid flooding the plants, which can harm water quality.) … The push for so-called green infrastructure projects across the country dates to at least 1987, when Congress revised the federal Clean Water …
I am an alumnus of Auburn University and fan of Auburn football. To many, Auburn’s team performance has been characterized in the last two seasons by single, spectacular, and game-winning (or losing) plays. Those are the plays that hit the highlight reel and let us easily judge and sum up our opinions of the quality of a team.
Last season, with unbelievable ending plays against Georgia and Alabama, it bothered me that the wins were often written off as sheer dumb luck. I knew that in order for those plays to have happened, the team had to be a position for them to happen.
The plays of the game against Texas A&M two games ago went the other way for Auburn. Two fumbles in last minute critical situations prevented Auburn from pulling off the win. Bad dumb luck? Maybe. But I would prefer to say that, once again, Auburn earned that circumstance. Fumbles, penalties, and dropped passes chipped away at any cushion Auburn might have built through good play.
Success and failure in stormwater, like in football, rarely truly hinge on a single play or event. We may point to a big storm, or even a perfect storm combination of several events as the reason for our failure. But the truth is often buried somewhere in the story of our dropped balls and other miscues along the way. Every play and every day counts. from planning to design and into construction; from managing sediment to erosion to water to work to communication; every step matters. Like football, we will never know the true effect of each play or action on the overall outcome of the project. But we can grasp the principle and know the benefits of cushion, and buffer, and earned grace. The only way to build those is striving for excellence in everything we do (not perfection, excellence – there is a difference).
Our wins will not always be praised or even noticed. Nor will our losses always trigger boos from our opponents or fans. But they might. And those possibilities are worth our consideration and our best effort on every play.
Responsibility: our ability to respond.
The level of concern in the general public over the recently proposed rule attempting to clarify the definition of Waters of the United States really didn’t surprise me much. If the subject was even on their radar, it was because of clips and snippets of information provided to them from their favorite media source. The Clean Water Act and its historical and recent interpretation, implementation, and reason for existence is a long and complicated story. It’s is certainly not five O’clock news material.
And it also wasn’t a shock to see non-traditional, but more widely accepted “news” media take the opportunity to use the proposed rule to promote whatever agenda and support whichever party they may be leaning toward.
And what politician worth his salt would ever give up an opportunity to criticize a “government” action? Even if the action is demanded by politicians to clarify rules created by politicians that politicians (and even the Supreme Court) can’t sort out cleanly enough to implement.
Similar to politicians, interest groups and industry associations that must show action to warrant their existence (and membership numbers), would be crazy to not take a stand against Big Business or The Man to protect its subscribers’ way of life.
But I have been surprised by the water quality profession’s public response, or lack of one. There was obviously an opportunity and obligation to provide comment to the agencies. But larger than that, I think we missed a great opportunity to start or join the public conversation. The misunderstanding and misinformation appeared to be based on shock that tributaries are chemically, physically, and biologically connected to the bigger waters. Or an inability to imagine that the federal government was planning to regulate waters so small that a ship couldn’t float in them, in spite of the fact that this has been the case for decades.
It’s not often that water quality issues land front and center, right in the middle of your neighbor’s (and my Dad’s) living room. From farming magazines, to local newspapers, to Fox, CNN, and CNBC – the conversation was happening, sometimes is a very misinformed and twisted way.
But we sat to the side, had some discussions among ourselves, and worked on our comments to the agencies.
Why is that? Was the topic too complex to explain rationally to the uninformed? Was it not worth the hassle? Did it place us on the opposite side of our declared public politics? Or is it simply easier to whine with the whiners?
I have said before that the Clean Water Act set forth a very real expectation that we get better. If water quality professionals are unable or unwilling to sort the truth from the fiction, and publically articulate their knowledge and views (either way) on such important proposal to clarify such an important law, then who should?
The deadline for the comment period has passed. But there will be another opportunity to educate and inform the general public on this proposal and matters of water quality. The implementation of the rule will make larger waves in the news media than its withdrawal by the agencies. I encourage us to be ready for either. The 42 year-old goals of the Clean Water Act aren’t getting any younger, and the rate of improvement in the quality of our Nation’s waters still lags far behind our 42 year-old intentions.
Like change or not, please take time to fully investigate the reasons behind proposed change related to water quality and start sharing your knowledge and expertise outside of our own peer network. Clean water is way to important to only be publically discussed on talk radio.
A few of you noticed my absence here recently while others saw way too much of me. The last three last three months have been tough as obligations, commitments, and opportunities came calling all at once. Projects, training, speaking, learning, meeting, leading, following, contributing, serving, teaching, and working. I decided to give up a few favorite, but discretionary things for a while to accommodate the extra. I hope you enjoyed the break. As I get back into our continuing discussion of leadership and water quality, I wanted to first share with you some highlights of my recent work -
- Meeting and getting to know professionals from across the country. There are some extremely interesting people in our world. Taking time to get to know some of them was a real treat.
- Delivering a half-day collaborative leadership workshop to the Montana Department of Water Quality and Montana Transportation Department. After lunch, it was very satisfying to watch and be a part of an open forum as these two government agencies chose to explore solutions together. Collaborative leadership at its finest. This was one of a few presentations with my favorite co-collaborator, Jesse Poore.
- Delivering the keynote address at the first annual EPA Region 4 wet weather conference. The quality, quantity, and aquatic diversity of southeastern US waters is a global treasure. I loved being a part of something big, especially as its just getting started.
- Creating and delivering effective construction stormwater design training dedicated solely to designers. For the last 15-20 years, construction stormwater training has largely been focused on those in construction. Nearly 100 designers in three, day-and-a-half-long classes were shown most of the why, a good part of the what, and some of the how. We ended with all three classes being treated to a hands on field day at the Auburn University Erosion and Sediment Control Testing Facility.
- Participating in a National discussion on EPA and the Corps’ proposed definition of Waters of the US. It was an unexpected, but exciting experience. WEF published a panel and perspectives-based article and hosted an associated webcast last week. I understand the webcast registration numbers set a record for the organization. Very cool to be invited as a contributor.
- Contributing to a national organization dedicated to working for water quality and water quality professionals. The reward is well-worth the time and effort required to hang with the EnviroCert Board of Directors. Stay tuned for some exciting changes ahead…
- Having opportunities for influence locally and nationally. Bringing ideas and best practices back home to Alabama is one of the perks of getting out and about. Seeing that Alabama is on the cutting edge in a few areas is also fun.
- Being challenged and rising to the occasion. (Recognizing that I have been gifted with health, the understanding of family, the help of friends, and blessing of my employer). Teaching and presenting at about ten different events, on about six different topics, in five different states (and two webinars) in about eleven weeks. Drained but satisfied and hopeful about the future.
Moving forward -
I plan to get back into a groove of weekly posts on leadership and water quality. Be thinking about topics and news for discussion. Also consider guest-posting. At the end of each month, we’ll continue to look back at Stormwater In the Mainstream.
Thanks for sticking around.
Earlier this month the mainstream and citizens of Toledo were introduced to one significant potential harm regarding stormwater runoff – green algae. While the Toledo Mayor said the wake-up call was similar to that of a terrorist attack, a State Senator is leaning on a fertilizer management bill that should take effect at the end of 2017 according to a commenter. Swimming and fishing in the water we pee in is one thing, asking people to drink appears to be quite another.
This month’s Stormwater in the Mainstream brought to you by StormwaterTools.com and Google News is ripe with connections between stormwater and more mainstream water related concerns like drinking water and wastewater. Enjoy…
|Iowa City Press Citizen
McMahon said the alliance can make “meaningful and substantial improvements to water quality in Iowa” and stave off efforts to regulate the state’s nearly 90,000 farmers, many of whom raise corn and soybeans.
Rain, so essential for life, brings with it unwanted problems of standing water where insects breed, erosion that chokes rivers with silt and runoff that carries pollutants to waterways, especially the Wabash River. Solving these problems often costs …
MEDWAY – The Planning and Economic Development Board Tuesday held the second session of a public hearing for Tri-Valley Commons, where the board, applicant and engineers primarily discussed stormwater management. The proposed plans for the …
PETERSBURG – City officials say they are taking multiple steps to address issues in the Stormwater Department in the aftermath of a black city worker’s claim that his white boss spray-painted “KKK” on his back, and a subsequent investigation that …
The Pittsburgh Park’s Conservancy and its partners are spending $2 million on so-called “green infrastructure” to trap rainwater before it makes its way into the sewer system.
|Jacksonville Daily News
MOREHEAD CITY– State recreational water quality officials today lifted a water quality notification in Atlantic Beach.
Officials celebrated the completion of two projects in the borough’s Green Infrastructure Master Plan that will redirect storm water that normally would flow into combined sewer pipes. The water instead will be directed into the ground. Etna and …
|The Times-Picayune – NOLA.com (blog)
Parkway Partners will host Green Keepers, an educational series designed to teach residents about green infrastructure, which includes proper storm water management, the dangers of too much concrete/paved surfaces, and how to use plants and trees in …
Officials from Unity, Latrobe and Derry Township continue to be at a stalemate regarding funding for an $8.2 million stormwater management project benefiting all three communities. After months of debate and state mediation, municipal authority board …
How to protect drinking water from stormwater pollution. By Anna Norris. August 20, 2014 Updated Aug 20, 2014 at 7:33 PM EDT.
“We have looked at implementing storm water improvements within the alleys by installing new storm basins and laying pipe.
Behind the scenes up front: Following the suggestion of a friend, I am reading the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I was distracted early on with McKeown’s observation of the use of the word, priority. The singular use of the word has been around since the 1400s. The plural form, priorities, didn’t exist until the 1900s. The original word referred to the very first or prior thing. Determining our single priority is, well, essential, according to McKeown.
We do often think and talk about our priorities. But rarely do we settle on a single priority as guiding a particular area of our lives. Stormwater is at the top of most of our lists, at least in our professional lives. But it is likely not the priority of our company or organization. And in many cases, it’s not even considered in our company’s long list of priorities. Can that be ok?
Unless your company or organization was established for the sole purpose of managing stormwater (stormwater authority or association, stormwater contractor/designer/inspector, etc.), I believe we should accept that stormwater isn’t a “priority” for most and do our part to support our company’s mission, whatever that may be.
While protecting water quality may not be an essential element of our organization’s purpose, it must be a consideration. How do we as Stormwater professionals make the connection?
It starts with our mission and ends with responsibility. Our organization exists for a reason, to be something or do something that is necessary and/or profitable. As we engage in activities to fulfill our purpose,we introduce the potential to negatively impact the environment. It is this potential (that we caused) that triggers our environmental responsibilities. These come in the form of regulatory requirements and social expectations.
The purpose, the priority, the mission of my particular employer is to provide a transportation system for the movement of people and goods within my state. As we build, maintain, and operate that system, we engage in activities that have the potential to negatively impact the environment (our mission automatically creates a tension between preservation of natural resources and the creation and support of infrastructure resources). What we do is regulated by society. It is regulated in the form of written rules, and by an understood social contract with affected communities and individuals whom we serve.
Both ends of the process must be adequately addressed. If we fail to address our responsibilities, our ability to fulfill our mission is affected. If we fail to address our mission, our purpose for being, our very existence could be threatened.
It takes big picture thinking to make the connection between our priority and our responsibilities. It takes courageous communication to effectively share the connection. It takes leadership to keep the connection at the forefront of decision making and to ensure that adequate attention and effort is given to both ends of the process.
Recognizing and accepting that ours isn’t THE priority isn’t always easy. But service isn’t about us as individuals or us as a profession. It’s about us as a responsible company or organization, or agency, that might happen to have water quality protection as one of our many responsibilities.
Speaking of Other People’s Problems here. OK, maybe other people’s dirty water.
I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to mingle with stormwater professionals from all over the country (even with some outside of the country). It is a privilege that I try not to take for granted.
Recently, AASHTO hosted a stormwater practitioners conference for state DOT stormwater professionals in Washington DC. This event comes around once every two years and is one of my favorites. During the many opportunities to share and interact with the other states, I was baffled by my reaction to a particular topic of discussion. It was baffling because I should be over it by now. While the issue isn’t prevalent in my area, the topic comes up often in other parts of the nation.
The discussion involves state transportation departments being held responsible for managing waterborne pollutants that originate upstream then cross DOT rights of way. DOTs across the nation are spending significant cash and time attempting to address nutrients, pathogens, and other nasty constituents that typically have zero relation highways.
DOT transportation facilities typically involve the movement of people and goods via cars and trucks. No industry, no golf courses, no agriculture, no sheep, no cows. No rooftops, no parking lots, no feedlots. Just you, me and the four (or eighteen, or two) wheels that we command.
Granted, some use the road as a trash can and cigarette recepticle, and some critters arrive as carion rather than as checked baggage. And there are some pollutants that typically do begin their journey on our asphalt. These aren’t the pollutants I’m talking about.
Generally not being a part of the source, DOTs often struggle to even put a dent in impairments related to these pollutants. Yet they spend the money anyway. Because that’s what the regulator wants. You accept it, you own it. It’s a weak argument and even weaker approach to addressing impairments of our Nation’s waters.
Listening to the debate makes me wonder, what if all of this energy and money were dedicated to things that actually originate on DOT rights of way? What if even a portion of the wasted money was given toward other efforts that focused on these problems by appropriate people in appropriate areas?
How we implement the Clean Water Act is flawed. It is ineffective, inefficient, and hasn’t brought us nearly close enough to meeting the Act’s goals – which were due 30 years ago, by the way. I see this topic as but one of many approaches to enforcement that are failing us.
Ensuring that our natural resources are protected and restored in the most efficient and effective way possible must be one of the primary goals of regulators, professionals, and other practitioners. The current approach misses that goal by a long shot. The waste, the distraction, the missed opportunities. What we are experiencing and continuing to allow and even promote concerns me. It seems to be a failed attempt at management when what we really need is leadership.
Environmental challenges keep coming at us, some bigger than stormwater. If we stick to the current implementation model being applied to Clean Water Act, I’m not sure future generations will appreciate us very much.
DOTs do not manufacture poop and plant food as a general rule. But beat them up if you wish. They do have some money left and can take up an amount of slack if you want them to (as long as you are really comfortable with the roads you have now). But know that we can do better. Just recognize it for what it is – scapegoating at its finest.
A few weeks back, I shared a thought in a presentation then in a post titled, Whole Brained I talked about how we sometimes get stuck in left-brained thinking - considering only linear, logical, sequential, black and white options. I made the case for also tapping into our right brains for increased effectiveness. The right side of our brain deals mostly with less concrete things like empathy, big picture, creativity, and true design.
Connecting to the theme of left and right, Claire Quiney, a stormwatertools reader shared the infographic below. If you are like me and have a lefty in your family you will find the creative collection and presentation of facts interesting (my son happens to write with his left hand but does almost everything else as a right-handed person would – talk about using your whole brain…). For a direct connection to the original topic, scroll to “Cognitive Benefits” just under challenges. If you are looking for a more brain-balanced employee, you may want to at least consider finding a lefty. Pretty cool.
Click on the infographic to enlarge. Enjoy.