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New Stormwater Rules Require New Developments to Include Green Infrastructure

March 5th, 2021 by

Stormwater runoff is a serious problem, made increasingly worse by climate change. Stormwater causes flooding and pollutes the streams, rivers, and lakes that provide drinking water and places for recreation. By most estimates, over 90% of New Jersey’s waterways are polluted, much of which is due to stormwater runoff. To better address stormwater runoff issues, new public and private sector developments in New Jersey must now include the use of green infrastructure as a stormwater management technique starting March 2, 2021 as a result of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) newly amended Stormwater Management Rules (NJAC 7:8). 

“These new rules demonstrate the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s commitment to improving water quality and reducing flood risk by prioritizing green infrastructure. Across the country, there are robust municipal stormwater programs that deliver compelling environmental, economic, and societal results locally. New Jersey’s rule change provides a national example of a statewide stormwater approach with buy-in from the environmental and development communities,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach.

This rule change requiring public and private developments to include green infrastructure—a set of stormwater management practices that use or mimic the natural water cycle to capture, filter, absorb, and/or reuse stormwater—is the result of a paradigm shift in New Jersey stormwater management. The new rules replace a subjective performance standard asking developments to use green strategies to sustainably manage stormwater to the “maximum extent practicable” with an objective and mathematically-based requirement for green infrastructure practices to be distributed around a site rather than centralized in one oversized basin. Distributed green infrastructure enhances the reliability and effectiveness of stormwater management and maximizes developable area on a site, and developers will now receive credit for its use toward their stormwater management requirements. 

The rule change provides objectivity and predictability in the stormwater review process, saving developers time and money. “Our customers and our neighbors want to see green infrastructure. The market is demanding it. And that, combined with predictability, is what aligns this new green infrastructure requirement with our bottom line. We know it will be good for the environment, and we believe it’ll be good for business, too,” said George Vallone, president of Hoboken Brownstone Company, 2015 president New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA), and co-chair of New Jersey Future and NJBA’s joint Developers Green Infrastructure Task Force with Peter Kasabach.

“We recognize the new requirements will require learning and adaptation by municipalities, developers, and their engineers who are less familiar with green infrastructure. New Jersey Future’s stormwater tools are helping these groups take advantage of the opportunity to improve the quality of life for residents and clients and maximize returns on investments. In many cases, green infrastructure costs less than grey infrastructure or is cost-neutral when managing the same amount of runoff,” said New Jersey Future Director of Stormwater Kandyce Perry. 

While the newly amended rule does not change underlying requirements for water quality, it will result in more stormwater soaking into the earth instead of running off from new developments. However, more can and should be done to prevent pollution, reduce flooding, and get ahead of climate change. New Jersey Future looks forward to working with NJDEP and other stakeholders to formulate additional rule changes aimed at strengthening standards for water quality and stormwater volume control and addressing how redeveloped sites manage stormwater. 

New Jersey Future has three resources to help municipalities and developers learn more about green infrastructure and the newly amended rules:

Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit: One-stop green infrastructure resource designed to help municipal leaders and advocates address the related problems of nuisance flooding and polluted waterways. The toolkit includes detailed information and a variety of tools that cities and towns can use to plan, implement, and sustain green infrastructure in public- and private-sector development projects.

Enhanced Model Stormwater Ordinance for Municipalities: Municipal stormwater ordinances enact the state’s stormwater rules at the local level. Municipalities may adopt stormwater ordinances that are stronger than the state’s minimum requirements to further increase green infrastructure and reduce flood risk. This tool provides guidance for municipalities who are determining how they should enhance their ordinance and includes a side-by-side table to compare NJDEP’s requirements and New Jersey Future’s recommended enhancements. 

Developers Green Infrastructure Guide 2.0: Practical guide that breaks down New Jersey’s Stormwater Rule amendments and helps developers and decision-makers understand green infrastructure options (even for challenging sites), advantages, costs, and benefits.

To learn more, visit New Jersey Future’s Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure program aimed at making green infrastructure the first choice for stormwater management in New Jersey. 

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