There is worse than not being helpful. It’s called being harmful.
First responders are trained to run to the fray – to hear the gunfire, smell the smoke, see chaos, and run towards it. They arrive to make things better. Not to join one side or the other or to add fuel. First responders are our heroes. We value their training and expertise. We value their dedication. We value their willingness to help when we need them. They are indispensable. But again, they haven’t declared loyalty to any of us or to our particular movement.
It’s a pretty cool concept if you think about it – someone, likely a stranger, is willing to risk their life to help me without knowing me, knowing anything about my personal preferences, or why I happen to be in the circumstances I am in. They help regardless of fault or responsibility, even when I may actually deserve my predicament.
In many respects, stormwater professionals also serve as first responders. If we are what I think we are, we run to the messes. We see turbid waters, and careless actors, and battles between opposing views, and if we are truly dedicated to water quality, we run toward the chaos. Not to sidle up to those with views that might match our own or to take up arms for ones cause, but to make things better.
Stormwater can be a turbulent topic. Regulation is changing. Interpretation of that regulation is changing. Expectations of regulators, contractors, developers, our neighbors, and our society are changing. Professionals who can make sense and create calm in the face of disorder and mayhem are valuable – and in many cases can be true heroes.
By now, you know that I am all for causing a ruckus. So it may be a bit confusing to you that I would recommend staying neutral as we aim to serve and protect. But there is a big difference between causing a ruckus as a servant and joining one as a professional. Which is still different than being calm and helpful during war between others.
All three types of engagement have the potential to create heroes. The leader understands which role is appropriate as each opportunity is presented.
It’s not about riding fences, taking advantage of unfortunate events, or piling on. It’s about discernment and about being professional. It’s about taking responsibility for doing what we need to do when we need to do it.
Think about your role as a peacemaker (not for the sake of peace, but for the sake of water quality). And think about your role as advocate (not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of water quality). And think abut your role as professional (not for a salary, but for water quality).
And if you still want to be a part of a fray, think about creating a ruckus of your own.
I am clearly a proponent of attempting to predict the outcome of our work. I believe we should have a pretty clear picture of why we do what we do, know what our objective is, and understand how we plan to get there. I also think we should have a clue about what’s going to happen when we arrive.
I have analytical tendencies, but I also feel a need for real action.
…Models are not right or wrong; they’re always wrong.
Gavin Schmidt made this profound statement in his TED Talk about the emergent patterns of climate change. He said that models are always approximations. They are never perfect. It yields an interesting perspective when we decide that “all modelers are liars.”
He said, “But there’s one key reason why we look at models, and that’s because … if we had observations of the future, we obviously would trust them more than models. But unfortunately, observations of the future are not available at this time.” We don’t and can’t know what will happen in the future, exactly. But can we benefit from the process of guessing? Schmidt also said,
…if a model tells you more than you would have known otherwise, it is skillful.
Skillful – having, showing, or involving skill
Skill – the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well
The Clean Water Act set forth a very real expectation that we get better – to be skillful. There are modeling, predicting, and estimating tools available to you today. RUSLE2, MUSLE, GSSHA, SCS, Rational, SWMM, SLAMM, WMS, etc. Unfortunately, many of us choose to not utilize them to better inform our work - many times because they are “flawed.” If you chose to take advantage these mostly free but imperfect “models,” could you have more information than you would have otherwise? Could modeling, predicting, and virtually tweaking your BMPs prior to ground disturbance give us a better product?
Design – to plan skillfully.
Professional – relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill.
Are you a design professional? Are you interested in becoming skillful? Try modeling. Then do something with what you’ve gained.
After all, “What is the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” – Sherwood Rowland, Nobel Prize winner
I went to a bite-fight the other day and a soccer game broke out.
In case you haven’t been paying much attention, a soccer tournament bigger than our World Series or Super Bowl, according to some, is currently being played out. Some call it football. Its not! Well maybe it is, but not at all like our football, the real football, where we use our hands more than our feet.
A few weeks ago, Luis Suarez, playing for Uruguay, bit a player from the opposing team. Yes – with his teeth! Granted the other guy didn’t lose an ear or anything. But this is soccer, not boxing.
The story gets more bizarre. This was his third biting offense. He has now been suspended by FIFA (not sure what that stands for) for four months but has kept his spot on the team, his paycheck, and even his coach’s loyalty. His boss is extremely incensed by FIFA’s sensitivity according to this story.
I learned all I know about the rules of biting from my oldest daughter. She faced a permanent booting about fifteen years ago for her habit. Seems her day care didn’t care how well she could kick a ball. That kind of behavior could not be tolerated. It potentially hurt the reputation of the organization, it introduced unnecessary risk, and it left painful marks on the other players’ little soft arms. Turns out, many day care rules, like no-biting and no-hands, are also good for business (and for soccer).
I’m wondering, how should we manage an excellent performer who happens to also be a biter? Thinking about someone who is good for the bottom line or good for “compliance,” but leaves a wake of regret, mistrust, and virtual teeth marks behind them. Do we ignore them? Make excuses for them? Try to change them? Remind them of general rules of social behavior and public health? Or do we give them the old three-strikes rule when it comes to violating our team or organizational values, regardless of their technical competence?
What would one of your star players have to do to be dropped after one strike, or two, or ten? The violation of established core values (you have some, right?) does more than cause your team to be in the news every once in a while. It can erode hard earned positive cultural elements inside your company. It can cause other star players to question you - the leader, and your motives. It can erode trust in critical relationships both inside and outside of your company. It can cause the credibility of a whole profession to lose ground. It’s a big deal.
How have you dealt with over-achieving bad apples?
Behind the scenes – my six year old and I coined the term, “bite-fight.” It’s a little game we like to play at bed time (really calms her down after a busy day). Even though the game stops well before drawn blood, the older ones and the wife really don’t much care for it.
Some interesting accusations being fired back this month from the LA Times in defense of EPA. Like EPA, Congress is now also being accused here of underhanded and sneaky rulemaking concerning the definition of US Waters. It seems if Congress can block the implementation of EPA’s rule, they could also create a suitable definition, if that was truly their desire.
We are also seeing our own legislative “muddying of the stormwaters” here in Alabama.
Enjoy this month’s Stormwater in the Mainstream from StormwaterTools and Google News. (The news is light this month mainly because the search term “runoff” is busy doing election primary duty.)
Property owners in Winetka can earn stormwater credits, which are credits to be used towards paying for a new storm water utility fee for the …
Salt Lake Tribune-
“The agreement resolves alleged storm-water permit violations discovered through inspections of Ivory Homes’ construction sites in Utah,” the …
The Environmental Protection Agency ordered more than a third of communities in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties to address the release of …
ORONO, Maine (AP) — High school students and teachers and representatives of tribal communities are gathering at the University of Maine to …
Berkeley County Council gave second reading Monday to an ordinance that could cost homeowners an additional $24-50 in stormwater fees ...
Santa Cruz Sentinel-
Across the county, nearly $3 million in projects are on tap that aim to manage stormwater better than funneling it into the sea, including keeping ...
Colorado Springs Independent (blog)-
No wonder the city and county have hundreds of millions of dollars in backlogged stormwater projects. It’s just hard to get excited about …
A ground breaking ceremony for a storm water project is taking place in Santa Rosa County this week. The ceremony for the Gulf Breeze Storm … The project will help improve water quality for the Santa Rosa County area. The restoration funds come from …
|Santa Fe New Mexican.com
The industry trade organization is encouraging oil and gas well developers to get permission from water well owners to test as a way of proving that drilling and fracking are safe and won’t hurt water quality. The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association …
A ground breaking ceremony for a storm water project is taking place in Santa Rosa County this week. The ceremony for the Gulf Breeze Storm … The project will help improve water quality for the Santa Rosa County area. The restoration funds come from …
|KAJ18 Kalispell Montana News
KALISPELL – Residents in one Kalispell neighborhood have been on edge about on-going erosion problems near their homes for years.
Accepting Bob’s invitation from last week, I decided to submit an abstract for the 2015 International LID Conference to be held in Houston next January. This is shaping up to be an excellent learning opportunity and being selected as a speaker might just be the nudge I need for travel approval. Since the abstract is about the size of a StormwaterTools blog post, I decided to share it with you before submitting. I would love to get some feedback on the topic, on the content and on the title (I was once described professionally as being “on a different grid.” I’m still not sure if it was accolade or insult.) Let me know what you think.
Our National Water Quality goals were set by Congress over 40 years ago. Thirty years after the deadlines for our goals passed, well over half of our waters are still too polluted to meet their designated uses. Many of our water quality problems are directly related to how we manage stormwater runoff. Not only is the natural environment being impacted by how we manage runoff, but our infrastructure itself is also crumbling under the weight of stormwater stresses brought on by community development.
A different kind of thinking by a different combination of people is required if we plan to meet those goals.
Civil Engineers used to own infrastructure outright. It’s what we planned and designed; it’s what we built, protected, and preserved. We did it our way – the right way, without much help or input from others. We used concepts and design principles tested and refined over hundreds of years of transportation, mining, and military works. We dealt with water early on. We saw potential in tamed rivers and recognized harmful effects of unwanted used and unused water. Hard armor would become the surface and lining of choice.
Today, the more natural Low Impact Development approach to design and less rigid elements of Green Infrastructure appear to be addressing many of the issues associated with water-related infrastructure resiliency and water quality restoration. But much of the conversation is taking place without civil engineers. At a time and in an area where civil engineers should be contributing, and are supposed to be leading, we don’t seem to be making a very strong showing.
We haven’t been asked to leave the effort, it has simply left us. We solved water issues long ago and decided to sit there, safe and secure. Fixed. Done. We checked out in spite of the obvious value of infrastructure expertise to any stormwater team.
In this presentation, the engineer-minded will be encouraged to think differently about stormwater. Linear, logical, left-brained thinkers will be encouraged to tap into their more intuitive, innovative, and creative right-brains. In addition to encouraging a brain-balanced approach as a part of our individual efforts, the case for multidisciplinary collaboration will also be presented.
ASCE’s Vision, Goals, and Strategic Priorities will be offered as a reminder and example of what infrastructure leadership is expecting from those who design, build, and maintain the foundation of our society.
The presentation will speak to the beginner and the maven; the skeptic and the believer; the civil engineer and the landscape architect. Participants will be inspired and equipped to think, innovate, create, and build differently as the way we used to do it simply isn’t getting us to where we need to be.
Are you planning to attend the International LID Conference? Would you want to attend this presentation as described? What could make the description or topic more effective?
Having lovers and friends is all good and fine, but I don’t like yours and you don’t like mine. – Eric Clapton
The last post, Whole Brained was based on material from a presentation I delivered recently titled The Art of Managing Construction Stormwater. During the presentation, I made the case that we sometimes are too confident in our checklists, specifications, and prescribed ways of doing things. I reminded the audience that meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act requires a different kind of thinking – using our whole brain rather than leaning so heavily on the left hemisphere. I was speaking to a group of fairly technical people – engineers, educators, researchers, and other stormwater professionals.
The presentation was a part of the Auburn University and IECA Education Partners Innovative Erosion and Sediment Control Research and Field Day event. It was an excellent meeting that highlighted the state of regulation, the state of research, the state of practice, and a reminder from me that traditional erosion and sediment control practices alone simply aren’t good enough (an inspirational downer, as I like to call it). We also saw some excellent demonstrations on the second day at the Auburn University Erosion and Sediment Control Testing Facility.
I met a landscape architect at the testing facility that had attended the previous day of seminars. He shared with me that while this particular group and segment of the profession may have too many left-brainers, his circles are tilted a bit too far to the right. (reminder – we’re not talking politics here. The left brain houses most of the logical, sequential and computer-like thinking. The right brain is more holistic, deeper thinking and creative.)
I have seen his concern being played out. Many LID practices promoted in handbooks are pretty - too pretty. Pretty things make ultra-practical people nervous. Instead of seeing hardy drought or water loving plants capable of sucking up pollutants and maintaining soil structure, we see increased costs and non-stop weed pulling. We perceive a lack of scalability and therefore a lack of sustainability. For a group that loves the virtual security and bland colors of riprap and concrete, colorful structural elements with names like, Sweetspire, Summersweet, Joe Pye Weed, and Possumhaw simply don’t inspire the confidence we’re looking for in how we manage our hydrology. But a conversation between the left and right brained could quickly get to a balance between anthophobia and cacophobia (the fear of flowers and the fear of ugly things, respectively).
Not only should we be using both sides of our own brains, we need to tap all of many people’s brains. We hear about the benefits of and need for multidisciplined teams; I’m personally participating in the promotion of the collaborative leader (along with many others); working with others has become a regulatory requirement in every MS4 permit in the US. I’m embracing these concepts because they make me better and they cause us to become more effective.
Zooming in then out - all the way inward then 50,000 feet out, its easy to see that I need to grow and that we need to grow… together. It’s very clear that I can’t do it all myself, and others can’t do it completely without me (and you).
Are all of your friends, mentors, teachers, and role models of the same persuasion? Or, could some variety in your life, in your learning, and in your thinking spark a new solution for you (for us)?
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who believe that everything can be divided into two categories – and then there’s rest of you.
You have decided that you are not an artist. You have told others that you don’t have an ounce of creativity in you. As a matter of fact, some of you have gone as far as labeling yourself as being “left brained.”
To remind us, the left hemisphere of our brain knows how to handle logical, sequential, and computer-like reasoning. The right side sees more holistic, intuitive, nonlinear reasoning. The left brained make good lawyers, engineers and accountants. Right side qualities seem to benefit entertainers, counselors, inventors, and artists.
Most in our profession tend to lean more on the left side. But I think we could all benefit from our choosing to use our whole brain.
God gave us all a left side and a right side. I don’t think the intent was for us to choose between the two.
We don’t usually associate the word, art with stormwater. Art is sometimes beneath us. We have things figured out and under control. We are stormwater professionals. We use terms like, BEST management practices, and MAXIMUM extent practicable, and Erosion CONTROL, and sediment CONTROL, and BEST available TECHNOLOGY.
We have handbooks, and checklists, and prescriptive regulations and inspection forms and BMP selection criteria and it’s all black and white, right? We know what the speed limit is and we always know if we are compliant. Our work is easily specified and easily measured, right?
Unlike our work, art is undefined. There are no real rules – you can’t nail art down with rules. Its requirements aren’t easily specified. It isn’t easily measured. Art requires thought and creativity, and flexibility, and design. It requires trial and error, thoughtful analysis, skill, talent and practice. We have no room for those things in our world, right?
What if thoughtful analysis and continual challenge and improvement was the norm? What if creativity, and thought, and flexibility and design were practiced on every project, on every site, every time?
Sometimes we slip into a mood and mode of compliance. We set out to check boxes and to do the bare minimum to barely squeak by. That’s not art. That’s not even beneficial. That’s a C minus.
The artist doesn’t get to set the value of their work. The value of their results is determined by those who experience and receive benefit from it. True art is valuable because people want it and it’s scarce.
Same with our work. We don’t get to decide what our work is worth. Others (and the environment) need to see the value in the product of our work. Compliance is boring. Compliance is easy. There are hundreds of good stormwater practitioners, inspectors, and researchers out there. What is scarce in our world is creativity and flexibility and true design. It’s unusual for someone like you to decide to look at a different way of doing something.
It is a mistake to allow anyone, including ourselves, to think that our work is anything other than true art. Our world is too complex and too important to go at it with half of our brain tied behind our back.
This month’s news with potentially the greatest impact to our profession and to water quality may just be the Supreme Court ruling on LA County’s responsibility for managing its stormwater. Some answers to be looking for in the fallout – who’s going to pay for the required measures?; will LA County begin suing polluters as it starts to incur large expenses for discharges into its MS4?; what will water quality look like in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers? Better pay attention. Implications and expectations within your MS4 could be huge.
Also below, AL.com actually includes overflowing wastewater treatment plants as cause for water quality concerns at our beaches. We usually just blame the poop in the water on “heavy rains,” as if it falls from the sky.
Other Stormwater in the Mainstream from Google News and StormwaterTools.com below.
|Clarksville Leaf Chronicle
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $765,000 in assistance to Tennessee farmers and ranchers in six priority watersheds who voluntarily make improvements to their land to improve water quality. Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary …
The work includes modifications to an existing stormwater retention pond at the intersection of Langley Avenue and U.S. 90, construction of a new retention pond off Spanish Trail, and the installation of an educational stormwater kiosk at Pensacola Bay …
I respond to the May 16 Dispatch article “ Thick blooms foreseen in Lake Erie,” which stated Lake Erie likely will see heavy toxic-algae blooms this year and pointed to the phosphorous runoff from farms and other sources as a likely cause. Farmers …
Leighana Murphy and Ted Lanpher walk across a portion of a beach between tsunami surges on March 11, 2011 in Half Moon Bay, California.
Roanoke County officials are seeking comments from county residents for the development of a storm water education and outreach program.
Officials in Winnetka are reminding residents to check their mailboxes this month for a letter from the village that includes a sample stormwater …
Napa Valley Register
Much to the chagrin of city officials, the state’s stringent new laws governing stormwater discharge are about to enter their second year of …
My Eastern Shore
Community volunteers and local businesses come together to construct a stormwater education center at Millstream Park in Centreville on …
William and Mary News
The bill also defers for six months from July 1st the requirement that certain localities establish a stormwater management program—namely …
Heavily encroached, the stormwater drains (SWDs) are undoubtedly in deep decay across the City. But equally to blame are the poor design, …
After 350 homes flooded in the heart of the City of Gulf Breeze during April’s 24-hour rain disaster, a task force was formed to explore ways to …
“I know it’s going to cost the homeowners (more) each year but we definitely needed a plan to attack stormwater. We’ve had problems ever …
The state Department of Ecology has issued an updated stormwater permit to the Washington State Department of Transportation to continue to …
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday took action that leaves Los Angeles County responsible for cleaning up stormwater pollution that flows …
Chapel Hill News
Much of the opposition to the town’s proposed Ephesus-Fordham plan has centered on stormwater. But how much do most of us really know …
Bacterial concentrations can increase during and immediately following rainstorms because of overflowing sewage collection and treatment facilities, storm water runoff and malfunctioning septic systems, according to the release. The site will be …
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is looking to broaden its focus on water and sewer service to include stormwater services—an area that board members say has been neglected.
The Stormwater Division of Boone County Resource Management has set up an educational booth at the Calvary Episcopal Church Charity Horse Show at the Central Missouri Events Center on Friday and Saturday.
To help prevent this from happening again, the county is starting a huge storm water infrastructure project. Right now, dozens of culverts in Port Charlotte are at risk for giving out.
|| - May 29, 2014
“Our storm water board is looking at creating some regional storm water detention in the Calumet Avenue Corridor as a means of saving costs to ultimate development in that corridor, making it as shovel ready as possible.
|| - May 29, 2014
The Army Corps of Engineers opened all five gates at the reservoir which caused rushing water. That rushing water cleaned out some of the sediment in the reservoir located south of Interstate 225 in Aurora. “When the gates are opened, the high velocity …
PORT RICHEY – With the rainy summer season not far off, city officials wanted to be prepared with repairs of a stormwater pipe and clearing culverts and ditches to ferry water.
Generally, success can easily be specified, prescribed, and measured. Effectiveness is more difficult to quantify – like most other good things in life.
As you read these comparisons, think about how you would you measure each.
successful – doing what you said you would do
effective – doing more than you had to
successful – compliant
effective – committed
successful - getting the job done
effective – causing positive change
successful - staying out of trouble
effective – leading the pack
successful - finishing without a negative event
effective – leaving the surroundings better than you found them
successful - the end
effective – the beginning
successful - outfoxing the regulator, the competition, the owner, or employer
effectiveness – leaving a positive wake that causes people to miss you
successful - financially profitable
effective – environmentally, socially, and financially profitable
successful - is good for me
effective – is good for us
successful - getting things done (think management)
effective – inspiring others to get things done (think leadership)
successful – addressing the what or the how
effective – addressing the why
successful - positively checking the box
effective – positively changing the box
successful - production
effective – connection
successful - short term gains
effective – legacy
successful – properly designing, installing, and maintaining BMPs
effective – protecting water quality
successful – …
effective – …
It’s not that success is bad. It’s not (unless it distracts you from becoming effective). Success is simply one of the many collateral benefits of being effective.
What are you measuring? Are you effective or merely successful? Is your success keeping you from being effective?
Successful or effective? The question is worth considering.
Behind the scenes: the idea for this post came while working with the University of Northern Iowa and the Iowa DOT on their stormwater program. A logical question was asked of me – how do you measure the success of your MS4 program? The answer to that question is easy - by checking to see if we did what we said we would do.
Maybe a better question is, how do you measure the effectiveness of your MS4 program? The complete answer will take some time, but I don’t plan to let it stump me.
This is a guest post by Jesse Poore, AICP, CFM. He is an environmental planner with Felsburg Holt & Ullevig in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a thinker but also carries a responsibility for action. You can find Jesse on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.
Jesse and I have had some great discussions concerning the Clean Water Act, its purpose, and its long overdue goals. Jesse has as good a perspective on these things as anyone I know. I hope you enjoy this post and read it again and again. I did. I also hope you will take time to share the message and talk it through with your peers . Our profession and our waters are counting on you. BF
A Principle of Psychology
The year was 1971. The setting was a raucous Congressional floor. It should be noted that I can only imagine and read about it now as I would not have arrived on the scene for another seven years. If I had been around though, I’d have been glued to C-SPAN. Oh, right, C-SPAN wasn’t conceived until 1975. If Twitter had been available, I’d RT @US-Congress #PrincipleOfPsychology for sure. Alas, modern conventions of communication make understanding how inspiring a congressional debate of national policy could unfold around water resources.
What is a Principle of Psychology? Imagine Congress, much like it is today, jockeying for position on major issues of national reform. The era in focus was the garden bed for core foundational policy that would usher in a forced conservation ethic of shared natural resources. Somehow, man was just coming to terms with the fact that we ought not to pee in the pool we swim in. It’s easy to give previous generations a bad time now with all that we know today, but this was cutting edge stuff. The people of this country were ready to adopt better practices behind stout legislation. Or were they? They needed to believe what was being proposed was noble and effective.
On the podium, marking time and tone for full effect, Senator Joseph Montoya plants a valiant flag of verbal fortitude that transcended the mostly industrial and agricultural push-back against increased water pollution controls. Referring to the proposed Federal Water Pollution Control Act amendments, he states, “Your committee has placed before you a tough bill. This body and this Nation would not have it be otherwise. Our legislation contains an important principle of psychology. Men seldom draw the best from themselves unless pressed by circumstances and deadlines. This bill contains deadlines and it imposes rather tough standards on industry, municipalities, and all other sources of pollution.”
In our work as Stormwater Superheroes, that kind of rally cry should be posted above the door to our office (or cube) and read to our children at night. We need a good reminder of the steep challenge in front of us. We certainly need to prop each other up and collaborate along the long and arduous journey. It is unfortunate that I do not see the end to the road we are on. Can the goals of the Clean Water Act be achieved? Senator Montoya and his Committee Chairman, Jennings Randolph, thought so when they set the target date for 1985 as noted in 117th Congressional Record 38808 (1971).
Senator Randolph stated, “We have written into law precise standards and definite guidelines…We have done more than just provide broad directives for administrators to follow…We’ve provided laws that can be administered with certainty and precision.” I hope you read those statements a couple times and let them remind you that your job is intended to be noble and effective, yet insanely complicated and that you understand, finally, that you can’t do it alone! We have not met the goals of the Clean Water Act, nor will we, until we clarify a precise value of managing non-point source pollution and tell the story from the public perspective (sorry legislators, engineers and scientists). We need entrepreneurs, planners, communicators, psychologists, marketers, educators, artists, economist, and citizen advocates to step up and help us improve the action plan. We certainly need more of THIS!
You and I have something in common, you know. We are each validating a principle of psychology that requires collaboration in terms of analysis, introspection, experimentation and comparison. These are the Best Management Practices we can hope for to carry us to the finish line. There is no time for us to tread water in our jobs. Much good has been accomplished. Much is left undone. #CleanWater