James Pinsky: New program can help landowners mitigate runoff

Got runoff? We can help.

Runoff occurs when rainfall can’t soak into the ground due to things like roads, parking lots, sidewalks, homes and other man-made structures that replace natural landscapes. This water collects and eventually finds its way into local waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay.

If you have a lawn or turf grass, and chances are you do, then you have runoff. In fact within the 64,000 square miles that is the Chesapeake Bay watershed region, lawns and turf grass combine to rank as the largest crop grown at 3.8 million acres, or just under 10 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s total land area. That’s a lot of runoff, and if you have runoff, then you probably contributes to nonpoint source pollution, which is Virginia’s most notorious water pollutant.

There is good news, folks. The Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District can help you, yes you, the non-farming landowner with a lawn or turf grass, to mitigate runoff thanks to a new program called the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, or VCAP.

The program is an urban cost-share program that provides financial reimbursement to property owners installing eligible Best Management Practices (BMP). According to the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, the development of the VCAP came about when staff from several soil and water districts had discussed the need to engage residential property owners in conservation efforts, since their actions are not regulated nor do they receive incentives to implement conservation practices.

Eligible best management practices include:

  • Conservation Landscaping: Includes meadows, mulch beds and tree plantings. Can be used as filter strips or riparian buffers.
  • Impervious surface removal.
  • Rain garden.
  • Dry well.
  • Rainwater harvesting.
  • Vegetated conveyance system: includes grass channels, dry swales, wet swales and step pool conveyance.
  • Constructed wetlands.
  • Bioretention.
  • Infiltration.
  • Permeable pavement.
  • Green roof.

The VCAP can be applied to residential, commercial or recreational land. Properly used, best management practices eligible for the program can restore problem areas, control and minimize erosion, conserve water within the landscape, restore riparian buffer areas, promote wildlife habitat, vegetate bare slopes, stabilize drainage ways and treat stormwater runoff.

For more information about the new urban cost-share conservation program, contact us at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District at www.lfswcd.org or www.vaswcd.org/vcap.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.