Over the years, much of the work of WSWA has been to design and implement green stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) designed to reduce the volume, velocity, and purity of stormwater that makes it to the Run.
Everything requires maintenance, so we are always engaged in care and upkeep of these BMPs so they continue to operate as designed. Specifically, we weed the Greenway Cemetery rain garden several times a year, maintain the paths in the Widmyer Elementary School wetlands, and do ongoing stream monitoring at seven sites each year to determine how well green BMPs are working, as well as to determine where addition projects can be installed.
Utilizing volunteers, WSWA performs periodic stream surveys using WVDEP’s Save Our Streams (SOS) process, to monitor the health of Warm Springs Run and the watershed in general. Surveys are conducted yearly June to October, on multiple sites in the watershed. Chemical testing, visual observations, as well as macroinvertebrate collection and identification, are conducted and the results submitted to WVDEP for inclusion in their database. We are happy to train new volunteers to assist in the monitoring process.
A mature tree will capture the first three-quarters of an inch of rain in its leaves, branches, and bark. Some of the water that has been captured evaporates back into the atmosphere. The remaining water has been slowed in its descent to the ground. As a result, the volume and velocity of runoff is significantly reduced. WSWA has planted over 400 trees in the watershed over the past 15 years. Restoring tree cover in areas deforested by the construction of the 522 Bypass will be an important part of our work for years to come.
An invasive species is an introduced organism that is not native to a particular area. They have no natural predators, thus can quickly overtake and destroy organisms that naturally occur in an area. Such changes in a bioregion can cause ecological, environmental, and/or economic damage.
There are a number invasive species in the Warm Springs Run watershed, including purple loosestrife, Tree of Heaven, Japanese stiltgrass, multiflora rose, and Japanese knotweed. WSWA members engage in a yearly effort to control purple loosestrife, although nothing can be done to completely eliminate these species.
The 29-acre “new” section of Greenway cemetery is typical of much of Morgan County. Graves are situated on a steep hill composed of fragile soil. Efforts have been made to establish turf, but most of the groundcover is weeds with shallow roots. In the past, stormwater picked up speed as it raced towards Warm Springs Run. The eroded materials collected by runoff were eventually deposited into the stream, raising the streambed and exacerbating flooding downstream.
In an effort to reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff, WSWA has installed three green stormwater BMPs in the cemetery over the past 10 years. While very different in appearance, these BMPs use the same principles: to slow, capture, filter, and reduce the volume of stormwater before it ends up in the Run.
The steep road at the north end of the cemetery is so fragile that after any significant rainfall town workers had to remove rocks and gravel from yards at the bottom of the hill, often making the road impassable.
In 2012, WSWA installed three diverters, made of recycled conveyor belts into the road. Set at an angle, the diverters direct runoff into French drains and grassy bioswales established in the ditch. The drains and bioswales collect and contain runoff; sediment is filtered out of any runoff that continues downhill.
Runoff collects in a rain garden installed at the bottom of the hill in 2015. The same principles of slowing, capturing, filtering, and reducing stormwater are at work in this rain garden. In addition, the perennials planted take in water below the surface, while providing shelter and food for native pollinators. In addition, much of the runoff evaporates, further reducing the volume of stormwater that makes it to the Run.
The road on the south end of the cemetery is so steep and severely eroded that it has long been closed to vehicles.
In 2018, WSWA installed a series of hugels in this area. Hugels are mounds constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials. Trees and shrubs were planted on these mounds, once they are had settled. The principles of green stormwater management are the same: the mounds slow down and absorb stormwater runoff. The leaves of plants capture rain and slow its fall to the ground; some of the rain evaporates. The roots of plants take up water in the soil, reducing the volume of runoff. Runoff that is not absorbed or evaporated is collected in the rain garden.
These three green stormwater management practices have played a significant role in helping to reduce the frequency and severity of flooding in the Town of Bath, downstream from Greenway Cemetery. Homeowners could install any of these three stormwater BMPs on their property.
All of these green stormwater BMPs were financed with grant funds from the Stream Partners Program, a cooperative effort among multiple WV state agencies and administered by the WV DEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management.
Widmyer Elementary School was built in the floodplain of Warm Springs Run. In the process, the wetlands at the south end of the area were destroyed. Wetlands are a naturally occurring green stormwater BMP. Without the wetlands, runoff from the surrounding steep hills increased the frequency and severity of flooding, especially at Berkeley Springs High School, located downstream of the elementary school.
In 2009 the Eastern Panhandle Conservation Agency, in partnership with the Morgan County School Board, reestablished the wetlands. Wetlands typically have three characteristics: soggy soils, water-loving plants, and standing water. Wetlands, known as the kidneys of the earth, operate on the same principles of green stormwater management: stormwater runoff is captured in ponds and absorbed by the soils. Excess stormwater is filtered by these soils and is cleaned of pollutants from nearby roads. The leaves of plants capture rainfall, much of which evaporates; the roots draw excess moisture out of the soil. Wetlands are also home and a source of food to many birds, animals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
WSWA agreed to maintain the wetlands area. Normally wetlands require no maintenance, but a path providing access to students and members of the community bisects this one. WSWA volunteers keep the path free of weeds so that students can use the wetlands as an outdoor learning area.
In 2019 and 2020, WSWA received Stream Partner grant funds to make the area more inviting to the general public. A boardwalk was installed over the lowest area of the path, which is often under water. Three benches in the area invite people to come in and sit a while. Paths were created between the wetland area and the benches. A sculpture, by local artist Mark Schwenk, draws attention from passersby on Route 522. Members of the local Boy Scout troop installed a bridge over the Run, allowing easier access to a meadow seeded with native wildflowers.
Kiosks, by local artist Mary Klotz, throughout the area inform people about the importance of wetlands to their community.
Community infrastructure is the basic equipment and structures (such as roads, bridges, buildings, water lines, and sewer systems) essential for functional, healthy, and vibrant communities. In order to function properly, the infrastructure must be maintained and repaired, or replaced at the end of its lifecycle. Because stormwater runoff has become one of the leading causes of water pollution in urban environments, community leaders and decision-makers are faced with making decisions on how best to manage stormwater in their communities.
Traditional "gray" stormwater is designed to move urban stormwater away from the built environment and includes curbs, gutters, drains, piping, and collection systems. Generally, traditional gray infrastructure collects and conveys stormwater from impervious surfaces, such as roadways, parking lots, and rooftops, into a series of piping that ultimately discharges untreated stormwater into a local waterbody.
Green stormwater infrastructure is designed to mimic nature and capture rainwater where it falls. Green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source, while also providing multiple community benefits such as:
• Reducing the volume of pollutants, such as sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus, entering out waterways
• Reducing localized flooding
• Decreasing the economic and community impacts of flooding
• Improving community aesthetics
WSWA is dedicated to providing the information that will allow community leaders to explore and evaluate the transformation of gray to green, especially when infrastructure projects involve stormwater management.