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, Ecosystem Services, LLC, the South River Watershed Coalition, the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, and Friends of the Rapphanncok, among others.

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)

I serve as one of six field liaisons for across the Bay Watershed for NFWF.  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 program staff and 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 2023, I helped coordinate and instruct several CBLP-Associate courses for workforce audiences in the Baltimore area and assisted with Level 1 classes in Virginia.  We also planned and held a special class for soil and water conservation district staff active with the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program. In the fall, Beth and I also traveled to Chautauqua, NY to conduct a workshop in collaboration with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.

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. Photo: Charlene Harper.

Collectively, the C BLP offerings 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.


South River Watershed Coalition

The South River Watershed Coalition (SRWC) grew out of a twenty year effort to remediate mercury contamination in the South River, which runs through Waynesboro, VA and north to its confluence with the South Fork Shenandoah. After many years of research, pilots, and streambank remediation work, the former South River Science Team tansitioned into a community-based watershed group that will have a watershed-wide focus.  The SRWC Board started meeting in 2023 and is formulating programs and projects.

For the past several years, I worked with others in the community to form the Board and assist with start-up activities.  We have also continued the previous work with DV Entertainment to create a series of educational videos about the South River watershed for English and Spanish-speaking audiences.

Here is an example that addresses the story of Mercury contamination and remediation in the South River.  Other videos can be viewed at the link above.

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/or watershed groups, 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.

Volunteers from the Rappahannock Tribe and Friends of the Rappahannock plant native grasses in a new bioretention at the Tribal Center. Photo: D. Hirschman

Stormwater Science

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.  This work is somewhat older, but I think still very relevant for our thinking about how to make stormwater management more effective.

Performance Enhancing Devices (PEDs) for Stormwater BMPs

What a name!  In fact, BMPs keep getting better.  Several 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.

I also 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.


I remain active with preparing presentations and organizing panels for conferences and workshops.  Here are some examples from 2023:

  • In December, I presented a pre-conference sesson at the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council’s semi-annual Turning a New Leaf Conference.  The sesson was entitled Stormwater Management for Poets and Philosophers with the objective of explaining a bit about stormwater methods and science to those who work in the field but want a deeper dive.  The session included several stormwater-themed haikus contributed by participants.
  • In November, I organized and moderated a session at the annual Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forum, organized by the Allliance for the Chesapeake Bay.  The session was entitled Urban Tree Planting: Why, Where, How.  Speakers included boots-on-the-ground specialists in urban tree planting, including tips for conducting extensive community outreach.  Thanks for Amy Wentz from Southside ReLeaf, Ann Jurczyk from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Kwamel Couther and Elliot Weidow from the Baltimore Tree Trust for providing insightful and inspirng presentations.
  • In April, I organized another panel for the Baywide Stormwater Partners Retreat hosted by the Cheapeake Stormwater Network.  The sesson focus was Urban Soil Health, reflecting new and old thinking about the role of soil in stormwater management as well as the health of our ecosystems and communities.  Much appreciation goes to Kateri Simon, Jason Papacosma, Chris Fields-Johnson, and Cecilia Lane for their contributions to the session.

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.