Wiki Guidance

Spring 2014

MPCA pioneers wiki format for stormwater management guidance

David R. Smith


Wiki Guidance

Big numbers boggle the mind. Two people won $414 million from the Maryland lottery the other day. How much is that besides more money than you would ever need? Let’s start simply on how much one million is. It’s roughly all the rice grains in about 31 2-pound boxes. So experiencing one million could happen in the grocery store.

Most of our readers know that state stormwater agencies publish guidelines of best management practices for reducing runoff and pollution. Some state agencies are moving away from the term, “best management practices” or BMPs, to a more regulatory-flavored term, “stormwater control measures” or SCMs. In either case, all of the state manuals are available online, providing guidance to city and county governments charged with implementing reduction of runoff and pollution. Some of the manuals offer general guidance while others are quite prescriptive.

Many state stormwater manuals have been revised and updated. An increasing number emphasize runoff volume reduction as a means to reduce pollutant concentrations. This means greater reliance and detailed information on infiltration practices such as rain gardens, roof gardens, bioswales and permeable pavements.

Over the years, the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute took the opportunity to review several drafts of state stormwater manuals’ guidance on permeable pavements. These include those from state stormwater agencies in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Pennsylvania; North Carolina; New Jersey; Massachusetts; Minnesota; Wisconsin; Washington state; and California (issued by Caltrans). Virginia and Minnesota provide detailed information on permeable pavements. In addition, Virginia and Minnesota offer Excel-based calculators to assist in determining how much water can be infiltrated in order to earn credits, i.e., a ticket to site development.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) organizes its SCMs into nine Minimal Impact Design Standards (MIDS). These are the core of revisions to their state stormwater manual. MIDS provide a toolbox for city and county agencies to implement via local ordinances to reach a performance goal of managing the first 1.1 inches of rainfall. One of the nine MIDS is called permeable pavements, posted on the MPCA website in July 2013.

MPCA took a different approach than most states by presenting its guidance in a wiki format that links and integrates MIDS practices to each other, to a calculator and to other guidance pages. It is a refreshing, non-linear approach to presenting the complexities of managing stormwater. We hope that other state agencies will move from static PDFs to a wiki format that requires a more integrated approach, and one that can be easily updated.

MPCA’s approach resulted in one million hits on the entire MIDS site in the first year of posting. A majority of those hits were on the permeable pavements pages. Not surprising because the MIDS wiki format brings information-rich web pages on permeable pavements. The pages include information on permeable interlocking concrete pavement systems that survive Minnesota’s harsh winter climate.The million hits, led by those on permeable pavements, might be an unofficial record for a state stormwater agency. Among other things, the one million hits can be understood with a shopping cart full of rice boxes.

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Check out MPCA’s website to see the potential of using a wiki-based interface.