Improved Water Quality: How to Shape Development with Incentives Instead of Mandates

Presented at the SESWA 2021 Annual Conference by Kim Patak.

How can communities entice developers to help improve water quality and meet higher environmental standards when local codes don’t require it? Incentives and credit programs can help drive low-impact development. This presentation shows how communities across the US are successfully using these tools.

Communities typically adopt water quality criteria because they are forced to by state and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations or pressure by local environmental stakeholders. But more and more communities across the United States are turning to incentives and credit programs to promote low-impact development (LID) principles to reduce environmental degradation caused by development in communities where permanent water quality controls are not required. 

Such programs are so enticing to developers because of the various development trade-offs that they are no longer pushing back on including permanent water quality controls and are changing their development practices. In fact, case studies have shown where developers are working with city staff to identify issues within city criteria and code that make it difficult to incorporate such practices into their developments. The most common issues found in various codes and criteria are presented, as well as how each was/could be resolved.     

This presentation also showcases examples from across the nation of incentives and credit programs being offered in communities to promote low-impact development principles and implement permanent water quality controls, including green infrastructure. Lessons learned from the various programs are presented, including financial, maintenance, and administration aspects. Developments that took advantage of such programs are also highlighted.

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