MDC assists Springfield with stormwater project

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The city of Springfield is showing by example how stream and water-flow management strategies can be beneficial elements of urban planning. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recognized Springfield's dedication to good conservation by presenting a $15,000 check to city officials on July 9 at the city's Environmental Resources Center. The check provides partial funding for stormwater improvements that have been made at Springfield's Government Plaza. The project includes pervious pavement, rain gardens and a bioswale; all of which help rainwater soak into the ground to be used and filtered by soil, plants and trees. All of these components reduce runoff and pollution to local streams.

In a typical urban setting, man-made changes to the landscape can produce significant alterations to a stream. As land around an urban stream is developed and terrain is topped with impervious cover in the form of buildings, parking lots, streets, sidewalks and other modifications; the amount of water flowing into that stream from rain or snowmelt and the velocity of that flow is significantly increased. This increases the chance for flooding and for more pollution to enter the stream. Ironically, the same conditions that cause higher-than-normal water levels in an urban stream during a rain event can also lead to lower-than-normal levels at other times. Because most rain in urban watersheds runs off surfaces rather than soaking into the ground, there is less groundwater to feed streams during dry periods. As a result, urban streams – particularly small ones – often dry up faster than rural streams of the same size.

Considering the impacts development can have on streams and other natural features is a key to developing successful urban planning strategies according to MDC Community Conservation Planner Ronda Headland.

"These strategies view natural resources, including rainwater, as a precious resource to be utilized for the benefit of the community instead of as a waste product," she said. "The resulting paradigm shift has led to the design, construction, and maintenance of green infrastructure systems such as those implemented at Government Plaza, alongside existing gray infrastructure such as roads and utilities. Efforts that the city of Springfield is making to protect aquatic habitat in local urban streams demonstrate that they care about and understand the value of conservation."

The Government Plaza project is one of several projects funded by the Springfield-Green County Urban Watershed Stewardship Grant (nicknamed "Big Urbie"). This is a $1.1 million federal grant awarded to the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks in 2011 by the U.S. EPA Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources under the Clean Water Act. MDC is providing funding in addition to this grant.

More information about things people can do to improve local stream quality can be found at