US research centres for stormwater infrastructure funded after WEF and NMSA support

Research centres focused on stormwater infrastructure will be established through federal funding after extensive support from the US non-profit organisation Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the country’s stormwater organisation National Municipal Stormwater Alliance (NMSA).

Congress has provided US$3m in initial funding for the establishment of three to five centres of excellence for stormwater infrastructure technologies (CESITs), a new programme authorised in the infrastructure and investment in jobs act (IIJA) of 2021.

The CESITs are to conduct research on and create an inventory of new and emerging stormwater control infrastructure technologies; analyse innovative financial programmes supporting stormwater infrastructure implementation; provide technical assistance to states, tribal communities, and local governments who want to implement innovative stormwater infrastructure technologies; collaborate with educational institutions as well as public and private organisations including community-based public-private partnerships; and establish and maintain a national electronic clearinghouse centre to collect data and disseminate information and findings from CESITs to the stormwater sector.

“The stormwater sector is data-poor, regarding the performance of new and emerging technologies,” said Seth Brown, executive director of NMSA. “These centres have the potential to bridge the gap between research and application in our sector through support of technology-focused initiatives.”

WEF and NMSA proposed the concept of creating stormwater centres of excellence as part of their annual stormwater policy recommendations to congress document, which has resulted in multiple other stormwater policy legislative successes since 2017 when the first recommendations document was released.

“This funding in the FY23 federal budget is a result of over five years of advocacy before Congress by WEF and NMSA and our members establish stormwater centres of excellence across the nation that will help communities employ the right technologies and practices to address their local stormwater management challenges,” said Walt Marlowe, WEF’s executive director.

Despite billions of dollars of investment over the last three decades, urban stormwater runoff remains the largest growing source of water pollution across the US. Additionally, studies show that there has been an increase in extreme rain events over the last 50 years globally and floodings impacts are expected to accelerate in the future.

“Performance of stormwater infrastructure is critical to meeting the growing needs in the sector,” said Brown. “The CESITs could support existing efforts, such as stormwater testing and evaluation for products and practices (STEPP), which is a programme established by WEF and now shepherded by NMSA to drive innovation in the stormwater sector by objectively evaluating the performance of stormwater technology.”

The IIJA additionally created a stormwater planning and implementation grant programme, as proposed. While that programme was not funded in 2023, the initial funding for the CESITs will help communities be ready for planning and implementation of grant funding in the future.

Marlowe added, “On behalf of WEF and NMSA, we thank Congress for creating and funding the new CESIT programme. We will work with the US Environmental Protection Agency and stakeholders to ensure that CESITs and other federal stormwater resources help communities address their stormwater management needs.”