Collaboration for Clean Water

Many of my projects this past year were the products of ongoing partnerships and collaborations.  It has been gratifying to see how a collaborative spirit can enhance outcomes and bring various skillsets and personalities together to promote better and more innovative solutions.  This past year, several of my collaborative partners have included the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance, the South River Science Team.

Below, I have summarized these efforts along with stormwater design projects, property field assessments (including wetland delineation), and other projects.

Field Liaison for National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

2020 was my second year serving as a NFWF field liaison.  I serve as one of five field liaisons across the Bay Watershed.  Together with NFWF staff in the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund program, the field liaisons work with both current and prospective grantees to assist with project development and implementation.  One of the key areas is to help build collaborations and partnerships aimed at achieving Chesapeake Bay clean-up goals.

Please feel free to contact me if you need assistance with developing a project idea, partnership, or resolving issues with an existing project.  d[email protected].

Conducting a site visit with staff from NFWF grantee Elizabeth River Project. Photo: D. Hirschman.


Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council — CBLP Grows & Matures

The Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council is the organization that sponsors the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) certification program, among other efforts.

I have been honored to work with Beth Ginter, Shereen Hughes, and a host of talented trainers since the inception of this training and certification program in 2016.  I have led the stormwater training sections for numerous Level 1 classes across the Bay Watershed.  In 2020, I worked with the CBLP team to migrate the classroom portion of the training to an online format.  This involved creating both synchronous and pre-recorded content (including an entertaining video on how to inspect a stormwater BMP) to complement to one-day field practicum, also adapted for the COVID times.

Beth and Dave demonstrate how to figure out ponding depth in the CBLP BMP inspection video. Video: Abby Ginter.

Social distanced CBLP Level 1 Field Practicum in Charlottesville, October 2020. Photo: Charlene Harper.

Through the years, I have also collaborated with CBLP and its partners to launch the CBLP-Associate program as a workforce adaptation of the Level 1 certification and a CBLP class for maintenance crew members.  This past year, we have been busy working with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to help develop a program manual for the Correctional Conservation Collaborative (CCC), which DCNR launched at correctional institutions as a workforce training program focusing on riparian buffers and arboriculture.  Our project with DCNR is funded by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

I believe that, collectively, these programs are an important component in raising the bar across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for sustainable landscaping and a more enlightened approach to planting design (including in stormwater practices) and, importantly, a more engaged approach for long-term maintenance and adaptive management.


Rivanna Conservation Alliance Project

The Rivanna Conservation Alliance is my “home” watershed organization here in and around Charlottesville.  With a small staff, RCA undertakes many educational and restoration projects around the watershed.  I have enjoyed collaborating with RCA and other partners on several stormwater projects.

Stormwater basin retrofit at local middle school, with RCA and Osceola Land Design. Photo: D. Hirschman.

This past year, as part of a grant from NFWF, I worked with RCA Executive Director, Lisa Wittenborn, and Melissa Morrison from Osceola Land Design on two stormwater retrofits projects: a stormwater basin retrofit at a local middle school and stormwater planters at the City’s public works office.

Lisa and Melissa work on the stormwater planter at the City Public Works Yard. Photo: D. Hirschman.









The stormwater planter mini-craze started here locally in 2019 when I worked with RCA and other partners on a planter at RCA’s new office on River Road.  This is an industrial corridor, so there are hazards to any type of BMP that involves excavation.  Thus, the stormwater planter became the demo project for this type of application.

Stormwater planter at RCA office. Photo: D. Hirschman.

South River Science Team

The South River Science Team (SRST) is a twenty year old effort to study and recommend remedial options for Mercury contamination in the South River, which runs through Waynesboro, VA and north to its confluence with the South Fork Shenandoah.  The SRST has been coordinated jointly by DuPont (now Corteva) and Virginia DEQ.  Based on Science Team’s work, Corteva has recently completed 6 Phase 1 bank remediation projects along the river in Waynesboro.  The remediation design benefited from many research studies on how Mercury moves through the river and floodplain ecosystem, and how materials like biochar can help with long-term remediation.

I began working with the SRST in 2010 as a member of the expert panel, and became the SRST coordinator in 2016.  In this capacity, I have helped organize and facilitate meetings of the SRST and the Remediation Advisory Panel (RAP).

Most recently, the SRST is going through a major transition to have more of a whole-watershed presence and to act as a convener so that various parties active in the watershed can share information and work collaboratively on projects towards watershed health, including and beyond mercury remediation.  Our planned 2020 Watershed Summit, like many similar events, has been delayed due to COVID, but we are working on a series of engaging and educational videos about the South River Watershed.  Check out the introductory video here.

Filming a video about the South River Watershed with David Verde from DV Entertainment. Photo: D. Hirschman.

Stormwater Design: Small to Large

One of the things that I find interesting about stormwater projects is working at different scales.  Stormwater is critically important at the scale of individual residential properties, as many of these have difficult drainage issues in addition to property owner objectives to incorporate native plant communities and improve aesthetics and functionality on the property.

I do many consultations with property owners, especially those interested in taking advantage of cost-share programs, such as the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program.   I also work with teams of designers and contractors to get projects designed and installed.

This residential project addressed a drainage issue and provided water quality benefits.  The design process involved working with the City Engineer to address road drainage, SG Designs on the planting plan, a certified arborist to ensure the health of the site’s trees, a landscape contractor to construct the practice, and VCAP to provide partial funding.  Many of the professionals involved are certified through the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) program. 

At larger scales, the projects are usually sponsored by local governments, and many funded through various grant programs.  I have worked on design teams for stormwater basin retrofits, stormwater wetlands, bioretetention, permeable pavement, rainwater harvesting, and other BMPs.

Bioretention retrofit at the Edinburg Mill Museum. This practice was a partnership with the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Virginia Dept. of Wildlife Resources, and Town of Edinburg. Photo: D. Hirschman.

Stormwater Science

For the past several years, I have worked on several collaborative projects that have contributed to the state of knowledge of stormwater BMPs, and assisted local stormwater programs will aligning local specifications with up-to-date research.

Performance Enhancing Devices (PEDs) for Stormwater BMPs

What a name!  In fact, BMPs keep getting better.  A couple of years ago, I co-authored a literature review, with Tom Schueler of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network and Bryan Seipp from the Center for Watershed Protection, analyzing research papers of how BMP performance for nutrient removal can be enhanced.

A couple of years ago, I collaborated with CWP on a project funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust to “operationalize” some of these BMP enhancements.  My part was to produce fact sheets for water treatment residuals, biochar, internal water storage, and enhanced vegetation management.  The  effort involved investigating how these enhancements can be scaled up from research to actual practice and integrated with BMP specifications.  Moving forward, I am hopefully that these stormwater PEDs can be integrated with other design solutions to address climate resiliency.


Could these residuals from the drinking water treatment process be used in bioretention soil media to boost pollutant removal? The researchers say “Yes,” so we have to figure out how to scale it up. Photo: D. Hirschman.

The fact sheets are below.  Note that the Iron Amendment Fact Sheet was produced by colleague Andy Erickson from the University of Minnesota.

Vegetation_122418; Internal Water Storage_122418; Biochar_122418; Iron Amendments_122418; Water Treatment Residuals_011519

The original PEDs paper is available on CSN’s website; the site also includes free downloads of two very informative webcasts on BMP performance enhancing devices.

Metro Nashville — Updating the Science of the Runoff Reduction Method

Metro Nashville developed their own LID Manual in 2016, with specifications based largely on Virginia’s Runoff Reduction Method.  Recently, as the LID Manual shifted from voluntary to a required component of stormwater plans, the Metro Government was interested in making sure the runoff reduction rates assigned to various BMPs were updated based on the most recent research (the original RRM Memo was published in 2008).

Metro contacted the original authors, and I had the opportunity to lead an exceptional team to review BMP research conducted since 2007.  Indeed, the new studies did result in recommendations to update runoff reduction rates for practices such as bioretention, green roofs, sheetflow, and permeable pavement.  Our team included Jon Hathaway from the University of Tennessee (along with a cadre of graduate students), Kelly Lindow from CityScape Engineering, Tom Schueler from Chesapeake Stormwater Network, and Marcus Aguilar, previously with Virginia Tech.

RRM Nashville_Report_FINAL_060718

District Department of Energy & Environment — Adding Water Quality Analysis to Runoff Reduction Update

On the heels of the Metro Nashville project, the team expanded to include the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP), as CWP was already working with DOEE on its stormwater program.  The resulting report built on the Nashville analysis to include research on the pollutant removal capabilities of BMPs for nutrients, toxics, and bacteria.  As with Nashville, DOEE is exploring ways to incorporate the new information into its BMP specifications and programs.

Runoff Reduction Revisited_DOEE_FINAL_092718

Property Natural Resources & Wetlands

There are many circumstances where property owners or managers need to know if there are streams, wetlands, other jurisdictional areas, or other environmental features on their property.  I like to get in at an early stage of project development to help property owners identify and work around these features.  Services include preliminary assessments, wetland delineation, preparation of preliminary jurisdictional determination reports, and permitting.

Identifying wetlands and jurisdictional areas early in project development is always a good idea. Photo: D. Hirschman.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) at Chris Greene Lake

It seems as human-made lakes age, the management issues become more complex.  One of the more challenging issues for recreational lakes (as well as drinking water supplies) is harmful algal blooms (HABs), which can disrupt recreational activities during the height of the season.  This seems to be a growing problem in Virginia as well as across the globe.

I have been working this past year on a project for Albemarle County to look into causes and solutions for HABs at Chris Greene Lake.  As the project is addressing both the watershed and in-lake processes, it is an interesting collaboration between SOLitude Lake Management, Vertex Aquatic Solutions (lake management experts) and Ecosystems Services and Hirschman Water & Environment (watershed expertise).  The team is looking at both shorter-term in-lake strategies as well as longer-term watershed management efforts.

Kip Mumaw from Ecosystem Services investigates one of the feeder streams to Chris Greene Lake as part of a watershed assessment. Photo: D. Hirschman.

If you are interested in HABs, here are few Virginia links:

Other Activities

  • I have continued to work on master planning and stormwater management projects and plans.  I work with partners to identify cost-effective stormwater solutions that integrate with the overall site opportunities and constraints.
  • I continue to serve on a volunteer basis for several committees and boards, including the Chesapeake Stormwater Network (Board member), Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (technical committee),  and the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Chesapeake Bay Stakeholder Advisory Group (member).  I have also contributed professionally to programs by Howard EcoWorks, CSN, and the Rivanna Conservation Alliance, and was a guest lecturer on stormwater for several university online classes and for a DEQ stormwater inspector class.
  • Prior to COVID, Kip Mumaw from Ecosystem Services and I also co-sponsored a couple of “Stormwater Science Happy Hours” for our local stormwater professionals here in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area.   We hope to continue this fine tradition in safer times for gathering.
  • Of course, I continue to write short articles for my blog page.  I enjoy investigating various topics about environmental and natural history, stormwater management, and sometimes some general life experiences.  Please let me know if there are any topics you would be interested or if you might want to be a guest blogger at some point.