Friday, July 9, 2021

Episode 585 (7-12-21): Middle Schoolers Make the Call on the Water Cycle, Watersheds, and Stormwater

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:46).

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

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 7-9-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 12, 2021.  This revised episode from April 2017 is part of a series this year of episodes related to watersheds and river basins.

SOUND – ~4 sec

This week, we drop in on a group of Virginia middle-school students giving citizens a vocabulary lesson on watersheds, the water cycle, and a challenging nationwide water issue.  Sound unbelievable?  Well, just have a listen for about 35 seconds.

GUEST VOICES - ~36 sec – “Water cycle; watersheds; evaporation; transpiration; condensation; precipitation; rainfall intensity; infiltration; runoff; groundwater; surface water; impervious surface; divides; drainage areas; tributaries; river basins; the ocean.

You’ve been listening to Christiansburg Middle School students who attended Stormwater Education Day on April 12, 2017.  The vocabulary list you heard included processes of the water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle; along with geographic features of watersheds, a term that people often interchange with drainage areas, drainage basins, or river basins.  Water cycle processes and watershed features are key elements in stormwater, affecting when, where, and how much of it occurs.  Stormwater results when rainfall or other precipitation can’t seep—or infiltrate—into the ground, particularly when the precipitation lands on pavement or other impervious surfaces.  Stormwater runs off over the land surface into water bodies or into drains and pipes that eventually lead to water bodies.  During that runoff, stormwater can pick up various water pollutants, and high-volume stormwater can cause flooding and erosion.  Such impacts, and the laws and regulations implemented in response, have made stormwater-management a far-reaching water issue, affecting local governments, homeowners, and businesses all over Virginia and the nation.

Back in Christiansburg, students learning now about the water cycle, watersheds, potential contaminants, and the filtering potential of different materials will be the future idea-generators and decision-makers who’ll deal with this widespread and complicated issue.

Thanks to Christiansburg Middle School students, teachers, and volunteers for lending their voices to this episode.  We close with some appropriate sounds and music for stormwater.  Here’s some rain and thunder, followed by about 30 seconds of “Runoff,” composed for Virginia Water Radio by Torrin Hallett, a 2021 graduate of Lamont School of Music in Denver.

SOUND - ~8 sec – rain and thunder

MUSIC - ~ 28 sec – instrumental


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, 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 Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 365, 4-24-17.

The voices of sixth-grade students (and some adults) from Christiansburg Middle School in Christiansburg, Va., were recorded April 12, 2017, during Stormwater Education Day, held on the grounds of the Christiansburg/Montgomery County, Va., chapter of the Izaak Walton League.  Thanks to Patricia Colatosti of the Town of Christiansburg and to Patricia Gaudreau of the Montgomery County School Division for organizing the event and for allowing Virginia Water Radio to participate.

Learning stations at the April 2017 Stormwater Education Day were the following:
Montgomery County – groundwater model;
Skyline Soil and Water Conservation District, Christiansburg, Va. – runoff boxes;
Town of Christiansburg/Town of Blacksburg/Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering – stream table;
Virginia Cooperative Extension/Montgomery County Unit – pet waste and streams;
Virginia Cooperative Extension/Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering – groundwater models;
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Karst Program – karst, springs, and groundwater;
Virginia Tech Facilities – watershed model;
Virginia Tech Forestry Graduate Student Association – sand filters and stormwater;
Virginia Tech Learning Enhanced Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS) lab – runoff boxes;
Virginia Tech Museum of Geosciences Outreach – watershed model;
Virginia Water Resources Research Center/Virginia Water Radio – recording terms related to stormwater.

The thunderstorm sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio in Blacksburg, Va., on September 28, 2016.

“Runoff” is copyright 2021 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, a 2020 graduate in Horn Performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York, and a 2021 graduate of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.  More information about Torrin is available online at  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.  To hear the complete piece (50 seconds), please click here.

Following are other music pieces composed by Torrin Hallett for Virginia Water Radio, with episodes featuring the music.
“A Little Fright Music” – used in Episode 548, 10-26-20, on water-related passages in fiction and non-fiction, for Halloween.
“Beetle Ballet” – used in Episode 525, 5-18-20, on aquatic beetles.
“Chesapeake Bay Ballad” – used in Episode 537, 8-10-20, on conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.
“Corona Cue” – used in Episode 517, 3-23-20, on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Geese Piece” – used most recently in Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“Ice Dance” – used in Episode 556, 12-21-20, on how organisms survive freezing temperatures.
“Lizard Lied” – used in Episode 514, 3-2-20, on lizards.
“New Year’s Water” – used in Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year.
“Rain Refrain” – used most recently Episode 559, 1-11-21, on record rainfall in 2020.
“Spider Strike” – used in Episode 523, 5-4-20, on fishing spiders.
“Tropical Tantrum” – used most recently in Episode 580, 6-7-21, on the 2021 Atlantic tropical storm season preview.
“Tundra Swan Song – used in Episode 554, 12-7-20, on Tundra Swans.
“Turkey Tune” – used in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Some of the learning stations on April 12, 2017, for Christiansburg Middle School’s Stormwater Education Day, at the grounds of the Christiansburg/Montgomery County, Va., chapter of the Izaak Walton League.

Diagram of the water (or hydrologic) cycle. Diagram from the U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Science School/Water Cycle,” online at

Virginia’s major watersheds (river basins). Map by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, accessed online at


The following information is quoted from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), “Stormwater,” online at

“DEQ is the lead agency for developing and implementing the Commonwealth’s statewide program to protect water quality and quantity from stormwater runoff.  Under the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP), the agency issues permits, certifies land disturbers and offers compliance assistance. 

“Stormwater occurs after precipitation and consists of runoff from streets, lawns, parking lots, construction sites, industrial facilities and other impervious surfaces.  Stormwater may enter surface waters directly or through natural and constructed channel systems.  Pollution, such as automobile oil, grease, metals, sediment, bacteria from animal waste, fertilizers and pesticides, even deposits from airborne pollutants can contaminate the runoff.

“Unmanaged stormwater can cause erosion and flooding.  It can also carry excess nutrients, sediment, and other contaminants into rivers and streams.  Properly managed stormwater can recharge groundwater and protect land and streams from erosion, flooding, and pollutants.
“DEQ regulates stormwater as a ‘point source’ of pollution, which means its source can be located.  This includes stormwater discharges from [the following]:

Municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s);
Construction activities;
Industrial discharges.

“MS4s are publicly owned systems, such as storm drains, pipes, ditches or swales that collect or move water to surface waters.  They must obtain permit coverage and develop a stormwater-management program.
“Coverage under a state permit may be required to discharge stormwater from construction activities.  In addition, local governments may manage their own stormwater-management permit programs, which are separate from the state permit program and from local land-disturbance permits. 

“During construction, a separate permit may be required for erosion and sediment control.  These land-disturbance permits are issued by localities as part of their erosion and sediment control programs, which DEQ periodically reviews.  The agency offers training for both erosion control and stormwater plan reviewers and land disturbers. 
“Industrial discharges are covered under industrial stormwater permits and require management practices and monitoring to protect the quality of the waters receiving the stormwater discharges.
Stormwater runoff that is not confined to a single point source is considered nonpoint source pollution, which is mainly controlled through erosion and sediment control.

“Local governments are key partners in the VSMP program, administrating erosion and sediment control programs as well as some stormwater discharges.”


Used for Audio

Code of Virginia, “Virginia Stormwater Management Act,” online via the Virginia Legislative Information System at

King County, Washington, “Stormwater glossary of terms and abbreviations,” online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “NPDES Stormwater Program,” online at; and “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System General Permit Remand Rule,” published in The Federal Register on Dec. 9, 2016, online (as a PDF) at

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “Water Science School/The Water Cycle,” online at; and “The Water Cycle for Schools and Kids,” online at 

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Stormwater,” online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, February 2000, “An Introduction to Urban Stormwater,” by Rich Wagner (pages 1-7), available online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, August 2010, “Wherever You Are, Stormwater’s On Your Street” and “Stormwater Information Sources,” by Danielle Guerin (pages 3-7), available online at

For More Information about Watersheds and River Basins

Natural Resources Conservation Service/Virginia, “2020 Virginia Water Resources Progress Report,” online at  This report has descriptions of projects in many Virginia watersheds.  The 2017 report is online at

Radford University, “Virginia’s Rivers, online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “How’s My Waterway,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Science School/Watersheds and Drainage Basins,” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Hydrologic Unit Geography,” online at; and “Virginia’s Major Watersheds,” online at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Commonwealth of Virginia State Water Resources Plan,” April 2015, available online at; “Status of Virginia’s Water Resources,” October 2020, online (as a PDF) at; and “Water Quantity,” online at

Virginia Places, “The Continental (and Other) Divides,” online at

Virginia Places, “Rivers and Watersheds of Virginia,” online at

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, February 2000, “Divide and Confluence,” by Alan Raflo (pages 8-11), available online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  Please see particularly the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject category.

Following are links to some other episodes on stormwater.

Stormwater introduction – Episode 182, 10-7-13.
Rainfall amounts and stormwater pipes – Episode 338, 10-17-16.
Stormwater drain markers – Episode 468, 4-15-19.=

Following are links to some other episodes on watersheds and Virginia rivers.  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in summer 2021; in those cases, the respective links will direct you to the updated episodes. 

Big Otter River introduction (Roanoke River watershed) – Episode 419, 5-7-18.
Big Sandy River watershed introduction – Episode 419, 5-7-18.
Blue Ridge origin of river watersheds – Episode 583, 6-28-21
Bullpasture and Cowpasture rivers introduction (James River watershed) – Episode 469, 4-22-19.
Hazel River introduction (Rappahannock River watershed) – Episode 339, 10-24-16.
Headwater streams – Episode 582, 6-21-21.
Jackson River introduction (James River watershed) – Episode 428, 7-9-19.
Madison County flooding in 1995 (on the Rapidan River, in Rappahannock River watershed) – Episode 272, 6-29-15.
Musical tour of rivers and watersheds - Episode 251, 2-2-15.
New River introduction – Episode 109, 5-7-12.
Ohio River basin introduction – Episode 421, 5-21-18.
Ohio River basin connections through watersheds and history – Episode 422, 5-28-18;
Passage Creek and Fort Valley introduction (Shenandoah River watershed) – Episode 331 – 8/29/16.
River bluffs – Episode 173, 8-5-13.
Rappahannock River introduction – Episode 89, 11-21-11.
Shenandoah River introduction – Episode 130 – 10/1/12.
Smith River and Philpott Reservoir introduction (Roanoke River watershed) – Episode 360, 3-20-17.
South Fork Holston River introduction (Clinch-Powell/Upper Tennessee River watershed) – Episode 425, 6-18-18.
Staunton River introduction (part of the Roanoke River) – Episode 374, 6-26-17.
Virginia rivers quiz – Episode 334, 9-19-16.
Virginia surface water numbers – Episode 539, 8-24-20.
Virginia’s Tennessee River tributaries – Episode 420, 5-14-18.
Water cycle introduction – Episode 191, 12-9-13; and water cycle diagrams reconsidered – Episode 480, 7-8-19.
Watersheds introduction – Episode 581, 6-14-21.
Water quantity information sources – Episode 546, 10-12-20.
Werowocomoco native people’s civilization history, centered in the York River watershed – Episode 364, 12-12-16.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 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.”

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems.
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science
LS.9 – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science
ES.6 – Resource use is complex.
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems, including that natural events and human activities influence local and global ecosystems and may affect the flora and fauna of Virginia.

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

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.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.