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 Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs

 Charlotte, North Carolina:
 Monitoring Stormwater Practices for Effectiveness

Charlotte at a Glance

Population:                  611,000

Land Area:                   242.9 mi²

Average Annual Rainfall:     43.52 inches

Number of Watersheds:        17

Water Quality Issues:        Bacteria, nutrients, sediment, biological impairment

NPDES Permit Status:         Phase I

Smart Watershed Score:       89

Contact Information

Daryl Hammock, PE
Water Quality Program Manager
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services
600 E. Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28202

Locator Map

Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs

                                   Mecklenburg County Boundary

                                     Charlotte City Limits

                        Figure 1. Location Information for Charlotte, NC

                                                    stormwater management and stream
Why is Charlotte Unique?                            restoration practices to provide water
                                                    quality and stream habitat benefits.
The city of Charlotte is the largest city in        Watershed planning and management is
North Carolina and the 20th most                    simplified by the fact that all local
populous in the United States. Charlotte            streams originate within Mecklenburg
is located in the southern Piedmont                 County limits, so the need for
region of North Carolina in                         coordination efforts across jurisdictional
Mecklenburg County (Figure 1). The                  boundaries is reduced.
City is one of the fastest-growing in the
United States, and is expected to grow              Several stream miles in Charlotte are on
by more than 350,000 residents in the               the State’s 303(d) impaired waters list
next 25 years. This growth has resulted             that does not meet the minimum water
in city and county agencies facing some             quality standard for either fecal
pressures regarding land use and                    coliform or turbidity (Figure 2). In
watershed protection.                               2003, a group of stakeholders was
                                                    convened to proactively develop an
Watershed protection is a major concern             implementation strategy to address fecal
in the Charlotte area, since the primary            coliform bacteria in three watersheds
public drinking water sources are two               (Little Sugar, Sugar, and McAlpine
reservoirs located outside the city and             Creeks). This implementation strategy
fed by the Catawba River. To protect                is currently being used as a template to
water resources, management plans                   develop future strategies to address
have been developed for most of the                 Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL)
watersheds in the Charlotte area. These             requirements in other watersheds.
plans coordinate implementation of
Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs

            Figure 2. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Impaired Streams

Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs

Why is Charlotte an                           implementing the City's pond
Outstanding Phase 1                           rehabilitation program.
Community?                                    Monitoring plays an important role in
                                              the success of the water quality team.
In 1993, Charlotte obtained a federal         Intense water quality monitoring has
National Pollutant Discharge                  been performed for more than a decade
Elimination System (NPDES) Phase I            to measure program effectiveness and
stormwater permit. As part of the             identify pollutant sources. Monitoring is
Permit, Charlotte Storm Water Services        currently conducted monthly at twenty-
was formed. Using newly instituted            three stations for a suite of water quality
stormwater fees, the City's Storm Water       parameters, while habitat and biological
Services immediately began improving          parameters are assessed annually (Figure
drainage infrastructure and eliminating       3). Both dry weather and wet weather
sources of stormwater pollution.              monitoring are conducted to screen
                                              problem areas and measure in-stream
Mecklenburg County began a fee-funded         pollutant loads. Biological monitoring
Storm Water Services program in 1994          data is used to assess the long-term
that included services to Cornelius,          effectiveness of the stormwater program
Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint        on stream conditions. The program
Hill and Pineville. In 2005,                  developed a Water Quality Index to
Mecklenburg County and the six towns          portray general water-quality conditions
received a Phase II NPDES Permit. The         throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg
goal is to ensure the development of an       area. The rating system incorporates
effective, countywide effort to reduce        chemical, physical, and biological
stormwater pollution.                         parameters that are mapped using a GIS
                                              system to provide current stream
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm               rankings. The monitoring program
Water Services (CMSWS) program was            continues to be refined, and is currently
the first of its kind in North Carolina and   being evaluated through the University
was designed to carry out efforts to          of North Carolina - Charlotte to
improve drainage infrastructure and           incorporate the most up-to date
eliminate sources of stormwater               monitoring techniques, trend analysis,
pollution. The CSWS division includes         and future regulatory requirements.
four teams designed to ensure
implementation and maintenance of
stormwater practices and development of
projects to improve water quality. The
water quality team is responsible for
satisfying the City's National Pollution
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
Permit, providing educational efforts to
protect and improve surface waters,
overseeing water quality Best
Management Practice (BMP) and
watershed projects, obtaining Federal         Figure 3. Aquatic Monitoring in a Local
and State water quality permits for all of    Stream
Storm Water Services' projects and

  Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs
  Recently, the Smart Watersheds                   both structural and nonstructural
  Benchmarking Tool was used to                    stormwater practices in a unified way to
  evaluate how well Charlotte implements           improve water quality. Public
  and integrates its stormwater and                involvement and outreach is also a
  watershed restoration programs.                  program cornerstone, with extensive use
  Charlotte scored very well, receiving a          of the Internet to relay information
  total of 89 points out of 115, which             regarding watershed planning, water
  included extra credit for some programs.         quality, and stormwater maintenance to
  Box 1 highlights some of Charlotte’s             watershed residents.
  stronger programs that received high
  scores using the Smart Watersheds                Proactive Illicit Discharge
  Benchmarking Tool.                               Detection & Elimination
                                                   The City of Charlotte has maintained an
Box 1. Charlotte’s High Scoring Smart
                                                   aggressive program to find and fix illicit
Watersheds Program Areas
                                                   discharges since the early 1990s. The
  Subwatershed Restoration Planning
  Watershed Monitoring and Reporting              program utilizes a combination of public
  Watershed Financing                             education, advertising, a pollution
  Stormwater Retrofitting                         hotline, stream sampling, stream
  Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination     walking, site inspections, and aerial
  Watershed Education and Personal                infrared photography to find and fix
                                                   illicit discharges (Figures 4 and 5).
  Pollution Prevention at Stormwater Hotspots

  How is Charlotte’s Water
  Quality Program Funded?

  The stormwater program is funded
  completely by a user fee charged to both
  commercial and residential customers.
  The fee is based on the amount of
  impervious surface at a site. Currently,
  the CMSWS has an annual budget of
                                                 Figure 4. Infrared Aerial Photo of Suspected
  around $55 million. The water quality          Discharge
  team is funded at around $7 million
  annually, and strives to meet regulatory
  requirements, curtail stormwater runoff,
  and to manage the city's efforts in the
  areas of water quality education,
  modeling, monitoring, and planning.

  Charlotte’s Innovative
  Stormwater Programs
  Charlotte’s stormwater programs and
  initiatives emphasize the use of a holistic
                                                   Eliminating illicit discharges is a core
                                                 Figure 5. Field Verification of Dry Weather Flow
  watershed approach, which integrates           from Golf Course fecal coliform reduction
                                                   strategy to meet
Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs
requirements in the local TMDLs.            now assesses stream restoration and
From September 2003 through March           retrofit opportunities in watersheds
2005, staff surveyed over 209 miles of      experiencing flooding problems. In
stream within the Sugar, Little Sugar,      particular, old and deteriorating farm
and McAlpine Creek watersheds to            ponds are retrofitted to improve water
locate and eliminate illicit discharges,    quality, flood control, and safety. Many
dry weather flows, and other sources of     of these projects are located on park or
fecal coliform bacteria. As a result,       school properties (Figure 6). The most
eight illicit discharges (in the form of    recent capital budget includes funds to
sanitary sewer leaks and breaks) were       plan and design approximately 16,000
located and subsequently repaired by the    linear feet of stream restoration
local utility.                              practices, three pond/dam retrofits and
                                            two watershed restoration projects.
Source Control Planning for Local
The City provides special water quality
training tailored toward all supervisors
and field crews who work within the city
departments dealing with street
maintenance and solid waste services.
City crews maintain more than 2,100
miles of city streets; including
stormwater drain maintenance and
inspection, street sweeping, sanitation               Figure 6. Pond Retrofit
waste pick-up, and special services pick-
up. Topics of the annual water quality      Charlotte also monitors the performance
staff training include:                     of structural stormwater management
                                            practices to improve their effectiveness
      Practices / Methods to Protect       in achieving overall stormwater quality
       Water Quality                        goals. Specifically, the program
      Storm Drain Maintenance              measures the cost-benefit, pollutant
      Standardized Storm Drain and         removal efficiency, and maintenance
       Inlet Cleaning Procedures            costs of a wide range of stormwater
      Roadway Maintenance Issues           treatment practices in its pilot program.
      Spill Prevention and Response        Stormwater practices in the pilot
      Recognize and Report Illicit         program include constructed wetlands,
       Connections and Disposal             wet ponds, bioretention areas and level
                                            spreaders, as well as several proprietary
Stormwater Retrofitting and                 devices (Figure 7). Flow weighted
Testing of Stormwater Treament              composite samples are taken monthly,
Practices                                   and funding has recently been provided
An aggressive flood control program         to North Carolina State University to
began in Charlotte in 1993 to handle        analyze the data and calculate
flooding problems in small urban            effectiveness.
watersheds less than one square mile in
size. The flood control program was
expanded in the late 1990’s to include
water quality enhancement. The program
Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs
Continuous Monitoring and Alert                    rapid changes in water quality which can
Notification Network                               sometimes indicate a pollution discharge
The City of Charlotte has created a                or erosion control situation. Seventeen
network of stream monitoring gauges to             monitoring stations operate in the
continuously monitor water quality                 network, offering real-time water quality
conditions in local streams. The network           data available every 15 minutes, 24
is designed to provide information on the          hours a day (Figure 8). The parameters
health of local streams, and alert staff to        sampled include temperature, pH,
                                                   dissolved oxygen, conductance, and
                                                   turbidity. The networking sites are used
                                                   to assess compliance with the
                                                   sedimentation control ordinance, analyze
                                                   short and long-term water quality trends
                                                   and rapidly deploy mobile units to find
                                                   and fix illicit connections

Figure 7. Bruns Avenue Elementary School
Wetland Restoration Project

               Figure 8. Continuous Monitoring and Alert Notification Network
               Monitoring Station Locations                                                7
Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs
Extensive Efforts to Educate and             surface waters. In addition, an annual
Involve the Public                           seminar is conducted for fertilizer and
Big Sweep – This is the local version of     pesticide applicators to provide them
the statewide “Big Sweep” campaign.          with information on measures to protect
The goal is to involve citizens in an        water quality. A certification program
annual fall cleanup event for the removal    for turf grass professionals called Clean
of trash from streams and lakes. The last    Streams was added in 2004.
Big Sweep Event was held on October 1,
2005. This program has been in effect        Advertising Campaign – Since 1998, the
since 1991.                                  water quality team has conducted an ad
                                             campaign for promoting clean water and
Storm Drain Marking - This volunteer         volunteer initiatives. In 2004, a new
program has been effect since 1994.          “Keep It Clear” campaign was
Volunteers are involved in the placement     introduced that was developed by a
of decals on storm drain hoods with the      creative consulting firm to educate and
message, “Do Not Dump – Drains to            involve the citizens of Mecklenburg
Creek.” (Figure 9). A phone number for       County. The campaign is designed to
reporting violations to the pollution        discourage illegal dumping, and includes
prevention hotline is also provided.         print, radio, television, billboard and
                                             mobile billboard media (Figure 10).
                                             Watershed information is also now
                                             presented weekly during the evening
                                             news broadcast in partnership with a
                                             local television station.

                                             Website – Charlotte Storm Water
                                             Services maintains a website (See
     Figure 9. Storm Drain Marker            Resources section) that includes project
                                             information, rain gauge information, the
Adopt-A-Stream - Citizen groups can          continuous monitoring network, an
become active in stream cleanup efforts      interactive kids section, and a service
by adopting a section of stream that they
walk at least twice a year to remove
trash and identify and report illicit
discharges. A sign indicating the name
of the adoption group is erected at the
nearest street crossing. The program is
now in its fifteenth year of existence,
and currently includes 96 volunteer
adoption groups.

Pesticide, Herbicide and Fertilizer
Education – The program provides                  Figure 10. Mobile Billboard
educational material to residents,
businesses, lawn chemical retailers, local   request and pollution reporting section.
agencies and industry on the proper use      The website also provides data on the
and storage of pesticides, herbicides and    success of the TMDL implementation
fertilizers to prevent discharges to         plan at meeting source reduction targets.

Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs
                                             TMDL to determine the success of
The Future of Charlotte’s                    program activities.
                                             In September 2006, the National
The city of Charlotte continues to           Association of Flood & Stormwater
expand on existing stormwater programs       Management Agencies (NAFSMA)
                                             announced that its President's Award for
and plan for the impact of new growth
                                             exceptional performance in
on water quality. For example, adoption
of post-construction stormwater control      communications was awarded to
regulations is part of the upcoming          Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water
NPDES permit renewal in 2006. Staff          Services. The award recognizes Storm
                                             Water Services' "Keep it Clear, Don't
has collaborated with representatives of
                                             Dump Here" advertising campaign, the
adjacent jurisdictions and a community
stakeholders' group to draft a model         new Storm Water Services web site,
post-construction controls ordinance to      educational inserts in monthly water
present to City Council for comment.         bills, weekly TV news stories about
                                             flooding and water quality issues, and
Adoption of the ordinance would meet
                                             brochures mailed to people who own
one of the state regulatory requirements
for water and sewer extensions, allowing     property in floodplains. Charlotte
development to occur that protects water     continues to expand its education efforts,
                                             and public surveys indicate that
quality while addressing regulatory
                                             awareness of stormwater issues in
concerns over endangered species. As
                                             Charlotte-Mecklenburg is at an all-time
part of the ordinance criteria
development process, modeling analyses       high of 62 percent, up nearly 20 percent
were reviewed to gauge the effects of        in the past five years.
various control measures on water
quality conditions, and cost estimates for   Resources
proposed controls were examined to
determine their influence on                 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water
development. Formal adoption of the          Services
ordinance is expected in 2007.     

Monitoring efforts continue to be an         Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water
important part of the water quality          Services Pilot BMP Program
program. Future regulatory requirements
associated with National Pollutant           torm water/Projects/Pilot+BMPs.htm
Discharge Elimination System
stormwater permit renewals have created      Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water
the need to develop an internal strategy     Services Continuous Monitoring and
on TMDLs. The strategy will focus on         Alert Notification Network (CMANN)
what measures are necessary to     
proactively participate in the TMDL          tormwater/Report+Pollution/How+can+I
development and                              +tell+if+a+stream+is+polluted%3F.htm
implementation process. Water quality
monitoring data collected on a monthly       Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water
basis is being compared to source            Services Water Quality Program Water
reduction targets established in the         Quality Data

Spotlight on Superior Stormwater Programs
LUESA/Water+and+Land+Resources/Pr        This fact sheet was produced by the Center
ograms/Water+Quality/water+quality+d              for Watershed Protection
ata.htm                                          8390 Main Street, 2 nd Floor
                                                   Ellicott City, MD 21043
TMDL Implementation for Sugar, Little
Sugar and McAlpine Creeks
Implementation+Strategy.htm                            October 2006

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water            Funded by the U.S. Environmental
Services Stream Restoration                         Protection Agency

Water Wise website


Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water
Services. October 2004. City of
Charlotte NPDES Storm Water Permit
Renewal Application. And Storm Water
Management Program Report. Permit
Number NCS000240

Jennifer Krupowicz. May 2006. Personal
Communication. Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Storm Water Services

TMDL Stakeholders Group. December
2003. TMDL Implementation Strategy
for Sugar, Little Sugar and McAlpine
Creeks. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm
Water Services.