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The City of Auburn, Alabama's Outfall Reconnaissance Inventory Program – A Low Cost and Effective MS4 Best Management Practice

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As federal, state, and local governments are struggling to recover from the worst economic recession in our nation's history, the United States finds itself at a crossroads in its mission to protect, preserve and restore its water resources. This is particularly true in the case of small and medium sized municipal separate storm sewer systems (Phase II MS4's). At a time when the vast majority of small towns and municipalities are resorting to major budget cuts in response to historic decreases in revenues, there is a simultaneous increase in the regulatory burden placed upon them in the form of unfunded mandates and higher expectations in the performance of “minimum control measures” (i.e. measurable goals). Therefore, it is increasingly imperative that Phase II MS4 owner/operators adapt their current operations to enable them to further the collective national progress in stormwater and watershed management, while at the same time preserving the economic viability of such programs nationwide. One way this is possible is for our local regulators to begin to develop intimate, on-the-ground knowledge of local watersheds and the potential sources of the concern that threaten the physical, chemical and biological integrity of our waters. It is a challenge that is not without great effort, yet the rewards are an invaluable resource in a time of great need for efficiency and efficacy in public water resource management. The City of Auburn, Alabama (the City) is taking on this challenge by implementing a comprehensive Outfall Reconnaissance Inventory Program (ORI) with an interactive geographic information system (GIS) database. The City began its ORI Program in January, 2010, with a goal of completing an inventory of one of the City's five primary watersheds per calendar year. With a staff of three and no additional funding, the Watershed Division of the City's Water Resource Management Department has been able to 1) map and evaluate approximately 500 storm sewer outfalls, 2) map and prioritize approximately 270 point source and non-point source water quality concerns, 3) inspect approximately 100 sanitary sewer aerial crossings, 4) identify and repair numerous structural failures of sanitary sewer and storm sewer infrastructure, 5) develop a GIS-based interdepartmental inventory and tracking tool, 6) inspect and assess over 150 miles of stream, and 7) identify and repair numerous direct and indirect cross connections. Guided by the foundation established in the Center for Watershed Protection's manual, Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination: A Guidance Manual for Program Development and Technical Assistance, the City has tailored its ORI Program scope and method in a way that has not only contributed significantly toward the identification and abatement of water quality concerns and increased water quality, but has also improved the City's ability to strategically deploy resources in a time of increased budgetary concern. The City's ORI Program has the potential to educate other communities of the hidden benefits of such a seemingly simple best management practice, thereby increasing their own resiliency in sustaining our national progress toward healthier water resources.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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