It’s hard to imagine now, in the middle of the Northwest summer, but rainy days will return this fall. And when it rains, the water does not soak through roads, parking lots and driveways. It runs off these impervious surfaces and makes it way to rivers and streams, and eventually Puget Sound.
Along the way, the rain water picks up pesticides, fertilizers, oil, bacteria and garbage and pollutes our waterways. Stormwater is the main pollution problem in urban areas, according to the Department of Ecology.
To combat what the Department of Ecology calls the “No. 1 water pollution problem for populated areas,” the state will begin requiring new developments to use low-impact green building practices. These include pervious pavement and rain gardens that allow stormwater to soak into the ground before it runs off, getting cleansed by the soil and native vegetation.
The state has been focused on reducing runoff pollution for nearly two decades, primarily in the most urban environments. All jurisdictions will now incorporate the new rules into building codes and other regulatory ordinances over varying periods of time.
The Department of Ecology was right to plan a long time for implementation. The most populated areas will have to comply in 2015, but more rural areas, including Thurston County, will have until 2016. Eastern Washington has until 2017.
That gives plenty of time for everyone to understand the new rules and plan developments with improved water quality in mind. That benefits us all.