Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stormwater management is key to keeping rivers and streams clean

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 3, 2013 at 3:23 p.m.

GOSHEN — The Elkhart County Soil & Water Conservation District wants citizens of Elkhart County to know what the group is doing and why so they can get involved.

That was SWCD Stormwater Coordinator Eric Kurtz’s message to a gathering of residents at the monthly Sound of the Environment meeting Wednesday, April 3, at Newcomer Center at Goshen College.

Kurtz said the SWCD was formed approximately 10 years ago to help cities, towns and the county improve their water quality and manage stormwater, as per the regulations in the Clean Water Act.

Kurtz said a large part of the SWCD’s role is to educate people about how they can best improve water quality and manage their stormwater. He listed the group’s rain barrel and rain garden programs and the two-year calendars the group puts out to raise awareness of stormwater issues as past strategies.

He also noted that the SWCD will be installing signs throughout Elkhart County on paths near bodies of water and at boat launches that will include its website address, as well as a QR code that when utilized with a smartphone will provide the user with a “clean water tip of the week.”

“We want to just raise awareness that that resource is there and it’s worth something,” Kurtz explained, “so that people who are using trails ... might stop and think for a minute.”

It’s all part of reaching out and educating the public, but Kurtz said the SWCD can’t do it alone.

“You can help us spread the message,” he told those assembled at the meeting. “Go out and tell your friends.”

As one resident at the meeting noted, public perception of stormwater programs has not always been positive, especially the element of stormwater fees, which were implemented in 2007.

Kurtz said he believes that education and access are key to understanding the importance of stormwater management and clean water.

“A lot more people are aware than when I started 10 years ago,” he said.

For more information on the Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District visit elkcoswcd.org.