Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Episode 468 (4-15-19): Adding a Splash of Color to Stormwater Management

Click to listen to episode (4:33).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 4-12-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 15, 2019.  This week our guest host is Lily Michaud, the spring 2019 intern at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

For this week’s episode, we focus on the topics of stormwater management, storm-drain markers, and a creative approach in Virginia designed to increase awareness of local watersheds.  We start with some music for stormwater.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds to part of “Storm,” composed by Torrin Hallett, a graduate student at Manhattan School of Music in New York.

MUSIC – ~18 sec

Upon listening to that music, you may get the sense that water has a story.  The notes and patterns convey the idea that water endures a fascinating journey.  Water’s journey involves both natural pathways across land and through the atmosphere as well as human-made pathways through pipes, into drains, and across pavement, with significant impacts as it travels through both kinds of pathways.  The water in human-made pathways is what we call stormwater.

Stormwater is defined by the U.S EPA as rain or snowmelt that “flows over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, and does not soak into the ground.”  In developed areas, typically stormwater ends up going down a storm drain. Water that flows into storm drains gets directly channeled into local waterways and watersheds without any passage through a wastewater treatment plant.  Storm-drain markers are an educational and cost-effective way to raise awareness about the connection between stormwater and the environment.

Storm-drain markers can range from basic stamps that say, “Do not dump, empties to stream,” to more elaborate depictions of the ecosystem that is receiving the stormwater.  The Town of Blacksburg, Virginia has chosen the latter, more picturesque approach to tell its local stormwater story.  In 2019, Blacksburg conducted its second annual storm-drain mural competition, where the winning designers paint their design on a local storm drain.  In 2018, four unique designs were selected and assigned to storm-drain locations around downtown Blacksburg.  The designs include realistic and symbolic depictions of landscapes, waterways, and aquatic creatures.  According to Kafi Howard, Blacksburg town engineer, and Carol Davis, manager of the Blacksburg Sustainability Division, the project is an eye-catching way to educate people of all ages about of their local natural resources.  Instead of letting storm drains fade into the background, the program grabs people’s attention and makes storm drains a part of a conversation about conservation.

All over Virginia, storm-drain marking is part of various local efforts to increase community engagement and involvement in improving water quality.  A picture speaks a thousand words, and in the case of storm-drain marking, it can serve as a concrete reminder of the greater connectivity among citizens, water and ecosystems.

Thanks to Torrin Hallett for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 15 more seconds of “Storm,” as one last reminder of the story that water can tell!

MUSIC – ~18 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode was created and written by Lily Michaud, a major in Water Resources at Virginia Tech.  In spring 2019, Lily was an intern with the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

Virginia Water Radio thanks Kafi Howard, with the Town of Blacksburg, Va., for her help with this episode.

“Storm,” a movement within “Au Naturale,” is copyright 2017 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio; as of 2019, he is a graduate student in Horn Performance at Manhattan School of Music in New York.  More information about Torrin is available online at https://www.facebook.com/torrin.hallett.  “Storm” was also included in the following other Virginia Water Radio episodes:
Episode 362, 4-3-17, on hail;
Episode 377, 7-17-17, on clouds; and
Episode 438, 9-17-18, on hurricane facts and history.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


Basic storm drain marker on University City Boulevard in Blacksburg, Va., April 15, 2019. The marker says “Don’t Pollute—Flows to Waterways.”

Storm drain mural on Draper Road in Blacksburg, Va., April 15 2019.

Storm drain mural on Clay Street in Blacksburg, Va., April 15, 2019.

Cover in the center of the storm drain mural on Clay Street in Blacksburg, Va., April 15, 2019.

QR code label offering more information in the storm drain mural on Clay Street in Blacksburg, Va., April 15, 2019.


Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “Storm Drain Stenciling,” online at https://www.cbf.org/join-us/education-program/resources/storm-drain-stenciling.html.

City of Chesapeake, Va., “Storm Drain Marker Program,” online at http://www.cityofchesapeake.net/Page3402.aspx.

City of Staunton, Va., “Adopt-a-Stream Program,” online at https://www.ci.staunton.va.us/departments/engineering-division/adopt-a-stream-program.

City of Warrenton, Va., “Adopt-a-Stream Program,” online at http://www.warrentonva.gov/government/departments/public_works/adopt_a_stream_program.php

Scott Harper, New Norfolk storm drain markers aim to keep polluters away, Virginian-Pilot, May 5, 2007.

Kafi Howard, Town of Blacksburg, Va., in-person interview by Lily Michaud, February 13, 2019.

Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, “Stenciling Storm Drains,” online at https://www.potomacriver.org/resources/get-involved/water/storm-drains/.

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, “Storm Drain Marking,” online at http://prj.geosyntec.com/npsmanual/stormdrainmarking.aspx.

Minnesota Stormwater Manual, “MS4 Fact Sheet—Storm Drain Stenciling,” as of 4/21/17, online at https://stormwater.pca.state.mn.us/index.php?title=MS4_fact_sheet_-_Storm_Drain_Stenciling.

Town of Blacksburg, Va., “Water Quality Public Arts Projects,” online at http://www.blacksburg.gov/departments/departments-l-z/sustainability/water-quality-public-arts-projects.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program, online at https://www.epa.gov/npdes/npdes-stormwater-program.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), “Storm Drain Stenciling” form, 2000, accessed online at https://www.roanokecountyva.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/229. (This form is no longer active, according to the DCR online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/forms.)

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), “Stormwater Management,” online at https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/StormwaterManagement.aspx.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Weather/Natural Disasters” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes related to stormwater.
Episode 182, 10/7/13 – on stormwater generally.
Episode 338, 10/17/16 – on rainfall measurements.
Episode 365, 4/24/17 – on stormwater and watersheds, featuring voices of Montgomery County, Va., middle-school students.

Following are links to other episodes featuring music composed by Torrin Hallett.
“Geese Piece” – Episode 335, 9-26-16 on the Canada Goose; and Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“New Year’s Water” – Episode 349, 1-2-17, on New Year’s 2017.
“Rain Refrain” – Episode 338, 10-17-16, on rainfall measurements; and Episode 455, 1-14-19, on record Virginia precipitation in 2019.
“Tropical Tantrum” – Episode 369, 5/22/17 and Episode 423, 6/2/18, on the upcoming Atlantic tropical storm seasons in 2017 and 2018, respectively; and Episode 438, 9-17-18, on hurricane basic facts and history.
“Turkey Tune” – Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
4.5 – ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystem.
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.6 – ecosystem interactions, including the water cycle, other cycles, and energy flow.
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

Biology Course
BIO.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.