About the Author


Janice Kaspersen

Articles by Janice Kaspersen

Paying for Green

| Many cities intend, or at least hope, to expand their use of green infrastructure to help manage stormwater and in some cases to reduce combined sewer overflows. Fewer, though, have a comprehensive plan for how to implement, monitor, and maintain these new installations, let alone how to pay for them. Developers might want to—or feel ... READ MORE

Applying Nuclear Science to Erosion

| Several countries in Africa are using an unusual technology to assess and prevent erosion and sedimentation: gamma spectroscopy. Gamma spectroscopy is often used to detect nuclear contamination, such as the fallout from the accident at the Fukushima nuclear reactor or waste from nuclear fuel. I had not been aware of its use for gauging erosion, ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Show Some Backbone

| A  few weeks back, I wrote in a blog for the magazine’s website about the situation on the Mediterranean coast, where nearly 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites are under threat. A recent study found that 37 sites are at risk from a 100-year flood and 42 from coastal erosion. With the exception of Venice and its ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: New Ways to Pay

| At this time last year, we here in southern California had no inkling that the Thomas Fire—until recently the state’s largest, ultimately burning its way through more than 280,000 acres—was just around the corner. It started in early December 2017, burned for more than a month, destroyed more than a thousand structures as well as ... READ MORE

Stopped in Its Tracks

| A few weeks ago I mentioned the Watergoat, a low-tech and affordable device that various watershed groups and volunteers are deploying in the Southeastern US to capture trash in waterways. This week Brigette Burich, the events director here at Forester who runs, among other things, the Western Water Summit and the annual StormCon conference, pointed ... READ MORE

Now Entering the Watershed

| Every once in a while, we run across results of a survey of local residents—often performed as part of the public outreach and education effort for a city’s stormwater permit—that gauges people’s knowledge of their environment. Questions often include things like, “Where does stormwater go once it enters the storm drain?” (a surprising number of ... READ MORE

Going in Circles

| On September 8, The Ocean Cleanup launched its first plastic-cleanup system from San Francisco, headed for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (You can follow its progress here and find some background on the project here.) The technology looks promising, and we wish The Ocean Cleanup every success—but there’s more to be done, and now some ... READ MORE

A Halloween Story

| In Erosion Control magazine, we’ve covered projects at many different types of sites, including lakes and shorelines, agricultural fields, and abandoned mines. All of these areas are on the radar, so to speak, for another type of effort now underway in Tennessee: tracking bats. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Nature Conservancy, and others are ... READ MORE

The Quest for Cleaner Shipping

| The upcoming November/December issue of Stormwater includes an article on how some stormwater programs are handling the problem of illicit discharges—ferreting out and stopping the release of things like motor oil, paint, concrete from construction sites, and so on into the storm sewer. The author asked several programs what their biggest problems are in terms ... READ MORE

Ready When Trouble Came

| We’ve talked a lot in Erosion Control magazine about shoreline erosion, as well as the options those of us in coastal areas have to choose from as storms increase in intensity and frequency and as water levels rise. We can stay put and try to replenish our eroding beaches with sand; we can continue to ... READ MORE

Book Your Trip Soon

| If you’ve been thinking about a sightseeing trip to the Mediterranean, you might want to go sooner rather than later, according to a recent study, which says that many of the cultural treasures along the coast will eventually be partly underwater or eroded away. The paper just published in the journal Nature Communications surveyed 49 ... READ MORE

Staying Afloat

| Several events have converged in the last couple of months to make people consider more urgently than before our relationship to the environment. These include Hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as the latest report from climate scientists, warning that we have until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas pollution if we’re going limit the increase ... READ MORE


| A recent news item from San Diego illustrates a couple of things we’ve discussed often in Stormwater magazine. Three employees of a painting company were fined and received other punishments for allowing lead-based paint to flow into a storm drain. As this article reports, the company had been hired to remove paint from curbs. They ... READ MORE

Where Does It All Go?

| Fertilizers. Insecticides. Fungicides. These are some of the many substances—collectively known as agrochemicals—farmers apply to crops to increase production and prevent losses. They’re necessary, if at times potentially overapplied, but there is increasing concern about where they eventually end up and what effect they’re having on groundwater and surface water, especially on potential drinking water ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Grains of Sand

| Of all the things you need to do this month, spending some time with one particular article in this issue should be on your list. It’s the summary, on page 40, of ASCE’s new certification guidelines for stormwater BMPs. ... READ MORE

Diving in Deeper

| Last year, Water Efficiency’s editor, Laura Sanchez, wrote about water use and data centers. Each one consumes on average an Olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of water every two days for cooling its equipment. She was talking specifically about the delicate balance for communities that want to attract tech companies but also want to protect their ... READ MORE

Look at What We’ve Built

| How much of the stuff in the world is yours? In other words, if you added together the weight of all the objects humanity has created—the bridges and buildings and statues and airplanes and park benches and bulldozers and all the rest of it—and divided it by the world’s population, what would be the total ... READ MORE

Following Florence

| Tolstoy famously wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Although he made no mention of it, the same principle might apply to flooded property. Every region has its own particular woes when the waters begin to rise. In the case of Hurricane Florence—not quite yet done with ... READ MORE

Burning Issues

| We’ve talked a lot online and in the magazine about what to do following a wildfire: how to stop the bare soil from moving, how to revegetate quickly, and how to prevent or at least minimize the flooding and landslides that so often follow. Now California—a state that’s repeatedly experienced the “biggest in its history” ... READ MORE

Spies With Feathers

| Among the many surface water concerns that stormwater managers need to be aware of, particularly in coastal areas, is the health of fisheries. Temperature, water quality, debris, erosion, ocean acidification—all of these affect them, and all can be connected back, in some way, to stormwater management. One thing a bit outside our purview is the ... READ MORE

Closing Up

| Researchers at the University of California Riverside and elsewhere have just published a paper linking the effects of climate change to more frequent and intense flooding. It has to do with the effects of temperature, rainfall, and humidity on the macropores in the soil—that is, the spaces larger than 0.08 millimeters, which, when they’re plentiful, ... READ MORE

The Uninvited

| Stormwater ponds in Ontario have some unexpected, and unwanted, guests: goldfish. Thousands and thousands of them. And they’re stirring up trouble—or at least sediment. The goldfish are a species of carp, native to Asia and considered invasive in North America. Unlike other species of Asian carp that threaten the Great Lakes, which originally escaped from ... READ MORE

Banking on Soil

| What’s a commodity in short supply in many large cities? There are many possible answers—parking spaces, reliable public transportation, affordable housing—but New York City is focusing on dirt. As this New York Times article explains, the city has set up a Clean Soil Bank, “a soil exchange that pairs local builders with environmental restoration projects ... READ MORE


| What if one morning the news contained, rather than more problems for you to contemplate, the solution to a longstanding dilemma? Thanks to researchers at the University of Illinois and elsewhere, we might have at least the beginning of an answer to the plastics problem. All the editors here at Forester Media have dealt at ... READ MORE

Two Million Tons of Sediment

| Any number of problems are blamed on dams: flooding when they fail, downstream sedimentation when they’re removed, disruption of habitat and fish passage when they simply exist. Recently in the Chesapeake Bay region, officials are blaming one particular dam, and those who control its floodgates, for a trash problem. Heavy rains several weeks ago led ... READ MORE

Boxed In

| Passing through an airport a few weeks ago, and having just had a water bottle confiscated at the security checkpoint (yes, I’m sorry to say I was one of those people who forgot all about the bottle in my carry-on and got pulled out of line), I stopped at a little coffee kiosk along the ... READ MORE

New Tastes to Save the Soil

| When’s the last time you tried a kedondong berry? As changes to the climate and soils—drought, desertification, and rising temperatures—threaten production of the most common crops, scientists are looking at ways to bring back local or “alternative” crops. Today, about two-thirds of the world’s agricultural output is limited to just four crops: wheat, maize, rice, ... READ MORE

A New Direction and a New Event

| Thanks to all of you who joined us last week at StormCon in Denver. Next year we’re heading east: StormCon 2019 will take place in Atlanta, GA, August 18–22, 2019. You can see more information—and the call for speakers coming soon—at www.stormcon.com. Before that, though, we have another event we’re eager to announce especially for ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Under Fire

| AS WE GO TO PRESS WITH THIS ISSUE, the (now) largest fire in California’s history is burning in the northern part of the state, having so far consumed more than 290,000 acres. It’s been labeled the Mendocino Complex Fire and is as of now only about 35% contained. Just a few months ago, a different ... READ MORE

Next Stop: Atlanta

| Thanks to all of you who joined us last week at StormCon in Denver. We’re already looking forward to next year’s conference in Atlanta, GA, which will take place August 18–22, 2019. You can see more information—and the call for speakers coming soon—at www.stormcon.com. In their keynote address, popular returning speaker Dominique Lueckenhoff of EPA ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: All in a Day’s Work

| If you stand back and look at what you’ve done on the job over the last few months or the past year, what comes to mind? Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing when you started out? Are there pieces of your job that surprise you? Anything you wish were easier to handle? ... READ MORE

A New Breakdown

| Just when you thought the news about plastics couldn’t get worse, another study comes along to show that it already has. Here at Forester, we’ve published a number of posts about the problems with plastic; here’s a recent one from MSW Management editor Arturo Santiago about the growing movement to ban single-use plastic items like ... READ MORE

Viva La Fiesta (The Mylar, Not So Much)

| In Santa Barbara, where Erosion Control’s offices are located, we have an annual tradition called Fiesta—also known as Old Spanish Days—involving a parade and a week’s worth of music, arts and crafts shows, food, and tours of the Santa Barbara Mission and other historic buildings. One of the popular trappings of Fiesta, which took place ... READ MORE

Killing Turtles

| We know the problems algae blooms can cause for humans—from unpleasantly slimy beaches to interruptions in the water supply to occasional respiratory problems in people who are exposed—and Florida seems to get more than its share each summer. Two years ago, thick algae on the state’s Atlantic coast led four counties to declare a state ... READ MORE

Bridging the Gap

| Very few of us are fond of our morning commute. Now imagine if you had to travel many miles out of your way because of a closed bridge—one that’s unlikely to be repaired anytime soon—or an impassable road. That’s the situation facing many people in Mississippi, just one of the many states that has a ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: “And Then We Kill Them”

| Of all the creatures living in the ocean, corals are some of the most vulnerable, and like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, they can let us know when conditions are dangerous. Unfortunately, just like the canary, they alert us by dying. Most of us are familiar with the corals from shallow waters, whether ... READ MORE

The Damage After the Floods

| The East Coast is under siege this week with widespread flooding. Seasonal flooding is common, but what’s unusual about this week’s storms is the sheer size of the area they cover; nearly 700 miles of coastline and cities farther inland are affected. As in other floods over the past several years—Houston comes to mind—the water ... READ MORE

Saving It Up for a Rainy Day

| With many states in the Southwest facing prolonged drought, the question of who has access to water—when and how much of it—is heating up. Arizona, which ranks lowest in priority among several states for obtaining water from the Colorado River, initially agreed to cut a third of its annual use, amounting to about 320,000 acre-feet. ... READ MORE

Meatless Monday—and Every Day—at the Office

| Two weeks ago, I wrote about efforts to cultivate algae as a food source. Proponents of algae-based nutrition point out that 70% of the world’s freshwater use goes into raising crops and livestock. We’ve also touched on the issue here, comparing how much water various types of food—especially meats—take to produce. A pound of chicken, ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Little Shop of Horrors

| we’ve all heard stories of non-native or invasive plants and the environmental havoc they can cause. They’re often difficult to get rid of, but we’re encouraged to try anyway; if you feel like clearing out a patch of kudzu, no one is likely to stop you. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even eat it. The roots can be used to make tea and the flowers to make jelly. ... READ MORE

Reconnecting Floodplains

| It’s getting harder to predict the weather. As this New York Times article points out, “Researchers say it is unclear whether climate change will make California drier or wetter on average. What is more certain is that the state will increasingly whipsaw between extremes, with drier dry years, wetter wet ones, and a rising frequency ... READ MORE


| What’s red and blue and devours almost anything? An inexpensive, low-tech device is being deployed throughout Florida and other southeastern states to capture trash in the waterways. Distributed by the nonprofit organization Bigwater Foundation, the floatable device consists of a chain of buoyant plastic balls and a net. It’s called a Watergoat—because goats eat anything—and ... READ MORE

Glossing Over the Problem

| At some point, the editors of all of Forester’s publications have addressed the problems with infrastructure in the US: too little funding, too much needing to be done, too many arguments about what should have the highest priority. You can see a roundup here of some industry experts’ opinions. It seems every country has its ... READ MORE

Erosion Control—Reader Favorites

| Listed below are the top Editor Blogs, Reader Favorite articles, and Erosion Control magazine articles for you to enjoy. This list is curated based on reader views, search traffic, e-mail click-through, and most commented articles. Bookmark this page so you will always have quick access to Forester Media's top Erosion Control content. ... READ MORE

A Whole New Menu

| “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” has long been the slogan of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. If a new group of entrepreneurs has their way, we might all be eating something cheaper and greener (in every sense) instead. All across the country, especially in warmer weather, algae becomes a problem in ... READ MORE

Catching Up to What’s Already Here

| A debate that’s happening in many different cities across the US is being played out right now in the mid-sized community of Greenville, NC. The city’s population is just shy of 90,000—although there are nearly 175,000 in the entire metropolitan area—and it’s growing at a fairly rapid pace. And that’s part of the problem. The ... READ MORE

Sacred Sponge

| A few weeks ago, one of my fellow editors here at Forester, Rachel Sim, wrote a terrific blog post about death—or rather, about some of the stormwater and groundwater issues particular to cemeteries. If you’ve never given much thought to how coffin varnish and embalming fluid might affect the water supply, it’s definitely worth a ... READ MORE

The Fog Catchers

| In the 1946 short story “Miss Winters and the Wind,” a woman tries to capture the wind in a bedsheet; the results aren’t quite what she’d intended. Today, a small farming community in Chile is having better luck catching fog in a net. As we face the possibility of increasingly longer periods of drought, the ... READ MORE

The Great Ocean Cleanup

| There’s a martial arts technique that involves using opponents’ own momentum against them. Will it work on trash in the ocean? A young Dutch inventor has devised an elaborate system for removing plastic debris from the Pacific Garbage Patch and other places; his ambitious goal is to gather and recycle half the plastic in the ... READ MORE

Water—and Tempers—Rising

| No one particularly wants to live in a flood zone. But deciding just where that zone lies and how great the risk is has been an ongoing struggle, both for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that creates the nation’s flood maps and for the homeowners who sometimes dispute FEMA’s designations. We’ve written in Stormwater ... READ MORE

Swimming Through the Garbage Patch

| On August 25, 1875, a 27-year-old steamship captain named Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel unassisted. It took him a little under 22 hours to swim from Dover to Calais, and the journey made him internationally famous. Today his feat seems so… well, 1875. Why cross the English Channel when ... READ MORE

The Mayor of Nowhere at All

| Few of us these days can claim to have lived in the same location since birth; the average American makes more than 11 moves over a lifetime, with jobs, school, and other changes often sending us clear across the country. Still, there are some people who remain where they started out. A recent article shows ... READ MORE

Under the Sea: A Memorial Reef

| We have many recognizable monuments to honor and memorialize soldiers and service members, from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Now there’s a new one—harder to see, perhaps, but very unusual in its form and its purpose. It’s called the ... READ MORE

The Taj Mahal Effect

| Environmental problems come to light in many different ways; the plight of sea turtles or coral reefs might highlight the dangers of something we’re putting into the water, for instance. Almost as attention-getting as animals in trouble, though, is an iconic building in danger from its environment. The Taj Mahal is one of those buildings. ... READ MORE

Lightning Strikes Twice in Ellicott City

| You’re probably aware of the flooding that occurred in Ellicott City, MD, over the weekend, with some areas receiving as much as 8 inches of rain in just a few hours on Sunday evening. Hundreds of people had to be rescued from the rapidly rising water, and one was killed—a National Guardsman who was swept ... READ MORE

Devouring the Problem

| In a blog on the Stormwater magazine site a couple of years ago, I mentioned a battle taking place in the Great Lakes; invasive lampreys destroy about 100 million pounds of fish each year, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has been spending $20 million a year to try to control them. Researchers had begun ... READ MORE

The Smallest Apartment in the World

| The size of the average new single-family home in the US is now more than 2,600 square feet, having grown over the decades. In the 1970s, it was just under 1,800 square feet.  In 1900—when families tended to be much larger—the average home ranged from 700 to 1,200 square feet. Not everyone believes bigger is ... READ MORE

Dishing the Dirt

| In the pages of Erosion Control and online, we’ve often debated the pros and cons of dam removal. Demolishing outdated ones—many of which are a century or more old and in danger of collapse, and some of which have outlived their original purpose—can return a river to something closer to its natural state, improving habitat ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: The Desiccated Future

| About a year and a half ago, in the January/February 2017 issue of the magazine, I mentioned predictions from NASA and other organizations that the US is in for a megadrought sometime during this century. A megadrought is one that lasts for decades rather than months or years, and we once believed that they occurred a couple of times each millennium; now, researchers are thinking that warmer temperatures and altered precipitation patterns caused by increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere will make them happen more frequently. The Southwestern states are at greatest risk, followed by the Plains states. ... READ MORE

A Burning Question

| Just in time for summer, the state of Hawaii is trying to eliminate some forms of sunscreen lotion. Two common chemicals in sunscreen products, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been shown to kill marine life, particularly coral. Last week, Hawaii’s state legislature voted to ban the sale of the two chemicals starting in 2021; as of ... READ MORE

The Dinosaur in the Room

| It might have happened to you at one time or another: A project you were working on got delayed—or, even worse, canceled completely—because historical or archaeological artifacts were discovered at the site. Ideally, an archaeological survey takes place long before work begins, but every so often something is uncovered during excavation or construction. Frustrating as ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Schrödinger’s Salmon

| One of the most basic things we do—protecting water quality—is rooted in the Clean Water Act’s “fishable and swimmable” target uses. We’re looking out for aquatic habitats and our own health at the same time. But what is it we’re actually measuring when we determine how safe the water is? ... READ MORE

Going to the Dogs

| Oh, the irony. Last week, a Boston-area neighborhood was flooded after a storm drain clogged. When city workers in Canton, MA, delved into the problem, they found a 3,600-foot-long blockage inside a drainage pipe. Now, we know all sorts of materials can cause clogged pipes. Disposable wipes—now almost universally known as “so-called flushable wipes”—are notorious ... READ MORE

Treasures in the Mud

| Several weeks ago, Japanese researchers announced the discovery of a treasure trove off the coast of Minamitori Island: a tremendous amount of rare-earth minerals. As this article notes, rare-earth elements—17 in all, including the lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium—are much in demand for a growing number of high-tech applications like smartphones, superconductors, camera lenses and ... READ MORE

Stormwater Treatment With a Different Face

| Managing stormwater is usually a utilitarian function. Occasionally it can rise to an art. A number of facilities combine stormwater treatment with another role, such as providing green space or recreational facilities for the public at large. One of these is Indianapolis’s Cultural Trail, an 8-mile walking, jogging, and biking path connecting various downtown areas. ... READ MORE

A Long Dry Spell

| As of mid-April, one-third of the continental US is considered to be in a state of drought. The area affected is increasing, and various cities and states are considering making their temporary water restrictions permanent—perhaps a sign that we’re starting to consider the drought the new normal. As this article points out, the Northern Plains ... READ MORE

The $10 Million Phosphorus Race

| In the 1963 movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, a group of strangers competed to find $350,000 of stolen, buried cash. Today, that amount sounds much less impressive than it used to, but a much different group is racing to win $10 million by solving a persistent water-quality problem: excess phosphorus. Phosphorus-fueled algae blooms ... READ MORE

The Birds, the Bees, and the Lawsuit

| Two projects in different parts of the country are highlighting the potential conflict between the needs of the people and the needs of wildlife. Both illustrate, in different ways, the tricky juggling act agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers must perform to balance diverse—sometimes incompatible—priorities as they manage the nation’s waterways. In Los ... READ MORE

Amphibious Architecture

| In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s house was carried off by a tornado. In real life, depending on where you live, your house is probably more likely to get swept away by water than by wind, but there’s a possibility that, like Dorothy’s, it might just stay in one piece. Some countries—especially low-lying, flood-prone ones ... READ MORE

A Long, Slow Breakup

|   The surface of our planet moves in all sorts of ways. Erosion is one cause; landslides, as we’ve recently experienced, are another. Something most of us don’t think about all too often—except for those in seismically active areas—is the movement of the tectonic plates. The Great Rift Valley runs some 3,700 miles, from Lebanon ... READ MORE

A Grim Reminder, With a Better Ending

| By now you’ve probably seen or read reports about the 13-year-old boy in Los Angeles who, on Easter Sunday, fell into a sewer pipe. He was carried downstream and rescued—13 hours and three-quarters of a mile later—alive and unharmed. The boy, Jesse Hernandez, was lucky, and so were the many rescue workers who tracked him ... READ MORE

Mixing It Up: Intercropping and Soil Health

| A teaspoon of healthy soil contains more microbes than there are people on the planet. Chances are, though, the spoonful you take from an agricultural field today will have fewer than that; the microbes representing the populations of some of the largest countries—say, China and India combined—might very well be missing. This article from The ... READ MORE

Looking Farther Into the Future

| It’s not too often that most of us get to gaze into a crystal ball and actually see the future—but occasionally it works. What will we see? If all goes well, a message that tells us when to get out of the way. Crystal balls for divining the future, usually some form of quartz, were ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Underground Movement

| The water’s rising. We’ve had time, by now, to get used to the idea of sea level rise and its potential effects on coastal regions, and to think about how we can prepare for the various possible scenarios. The rise is estimated at between 18 inches and more than 5 feet in this century, depending where ... READ MORE

Fighting It Out Below Ground

| There can scarcely be a more loaded subject in the arid Southwest these days than water: who has it, who needs it, and who gets to take it from someone else. The Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has just published an analysis of the situation in that state. Although it’s specific to Arizona and the ... READ MORE

Avoiding Sea Lice

| Humans consume more than 100 million tons of fish per year, and nearly half of that is farmed fish. In some ways farming is good; we’ve been overfishing many species in the wild. But aquaculture facilities also bring a host of problems. In some places, coastal wetlands and mangrove forests have been destroyed to make ... READ MORE

Another Dam Argument About Water

| What do you do when federal and state goals are at odds over a project within that state? What if the project itself is on federal land, but the work would affect large areas outside federal jurisdiction? Those are questions California and federal officials are arguing now in relation to expansion of the Shasta Dam. ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Breaking the Plastic Habit

| There’s a designated day, week, or month for just about everything you can imagine, and a few things you’ve probably never thought of, spurred by creative marketers everywhere. Some are serious, some are silly, and all of them promote awareness of a product, industry, company, profession, or cause. We have National Save for Retirement Week (the third full week of October), Spinach and Squash Month (November), Return Borrowed Books Week (March 4–10 this year), National Cheer Up the Lonely Day (July 11), National Zoo Keeper Week (third week in July), Responsible Dog Ownership Day (third Saturday in September), National Start Seeing Monarchs Day (first Saturday in May, and that’s butterflies, not royalty), International Surfing Day (June 20), National Garage Sale Day (second Saturday in August), and National Leave the Office Early Day (June 2, unless it falls on a weekend, in which case it’s the closest working day). ... READ MORE

A New Emphasis for Green Infrastructure

| A few weeks ago I mentioned a plan in Orange County, CA, to capture stormwater by using inflatable dams to slow the flow in a couple of local creeks. The slow-moving water will infiltrate and help replenish the groundwater—the source of much of the county’s drinking water supply—rather than rapidly flowing to the ocean as ... READ MORE

All the Carbon in Poland

| Every so often we hear about a new so-called superfood—something so unbelievably ideal that it checks all the nutritional boxes and, in theory, protects us from a host of problems. Kale. Açai berries. Seaweed. There’s an environmental equivalent, a plant that does for its ecosystem what kale does for us. It prevents shoreline erosion and ... READ MORE

Finding the Right Shade of Green

| Okay, let’s look at this one more time, but from a different angle: I’ve been beating the plastic drum lately, writing about such things as single-use plastic straws and the potential bans on them that some jurisdictions—possibly the entire European Union—are considering. An article in the March 3 Economist is taking a different view of ... READ MORE

Close Together, Arms Above Your Head

| Last Saturday, March 3, was World Wildlife Day. No doubt we all want to protect wildlife, but some folks—especially on the East Coast—are finding they have too much of a good thing. As I wrote in the magazine last year, trees are making a comeback in New England and other eastern states, and that’s creating ... READ MORE

Drawing the Short Straw

| Just about a year ago, I wrote about cities that are considering banning single-use plastic items beyond the plastic bag. Drinking straws were high on the list. They’re rarely recycled, and millions of them end up in waterways. That post got quite a few comments at the time. Some of you pointed out that there ... READ MORE

Saving Giraffes, Competing With Elephants

| An adult elephant can drink up to 50 gallons of water at a time. Keep reading to see why that might be relevant. We often talk about the effects of prolonged drought: The loss of trees and vegetation it causes, the resulting erosion and dust, the drinking water shortages—some drastic, as in the case of ... READ MORE

They Saved Lives

| Last August, the National Hurricane Center unveiled changes to its warning system. For the first time, it began issuing watches and warnings specifically for storm surges ahead of a predicted hurricane. That was in addition to its usual practice of issuing warnings for high-winds, which do not necessarily correspond to storm surges. The reason for ... READ MORE

Into the Woods

| How much time do you spend in the forest? According to an organization that dedicates a lot of effort to studying these things, the average American visits a wooded area—and this can include an urban forest—110 days each year. Recreation is only a small part of what forests provide, though, even for those who visit ... READ MORE

Happier—And More Likely to Be Eaten

| Medicines that have long been marketed as beneficial for humans are having decidedly different effects on other species. As we take more, they take more as well; 12.7% of Americans over the age of 12 now take antidepressants, up from 7.7% about two decades ago. And researchers are finding correspondingly higher levels of the drugs ... READ MORE

How to Define “Public Benefit”?

| The drought is far from over, and many California communities are preparing for future water scarcity better than they have before, or at least trying to, by enlarging their reservoirs. But they’re hitting a snag when they try to get state funding for building new dams or otherwise expanding their water-storage capacity. The Water Quality, ... READ MORE

TMDLs in Court

| The Clean Water Rule has suffered a few blows; last week the Trump administration suspended it, pending a planned issue of its own version sometime this year, and a couple of weeks before that the Supreme Court ruled that only federal district courts, not appeals courts, should have jurisdiction in challenges to the rule. While ... READ MORE

A Million Tons Down

| As milestones go, this is a somewhat disheartening one: A California paper reports that one million tons of debris from the fires last October in the northern part of the state have now been removed. Good that it’s done, of course, but the number just emphasizes the scope of the destruction. The debris removal spans ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Close to Home

| This is not the editorial I’d hoped to write for this issue of the magazine—or for any issue, for that matter. But the events of the past weeks here have made it difficult to write about anything else. The offices of Forester Media, which publishes Erosion Control, are in Santa ­Barbara, CA, just a few ... READ MORE

How Not to End Up Like Cape Town

| As you might have heard, Cape Town, South Africa, is about to run out of water. Officials have predicted that “Day Zero,” when the water reserves drop so low that they’ll have to shut off the supply to the taps, will occur within the next few months. Despite severe restrictions on use—50 liters per day ... READ MORE

Should We Leave It Alone?

| It’s tempting, after a disaster of any proportion, to do something immediately to try to fix the situation. In the case of wildfire, revegetating the burned area quickly is often seen as an essential step, especially if the fire occurs just before the rainy season, to prevent erosion, flooding, and—in the worst cases—mudslides like those ... READ MORE

Editor’s Comments: Your Chance to Predict the Future

| Near the beginning of each year, it seems, people have an irresistible urge to look both backward and forward, measuring progress and making predictions at the same time. A recent New Yorker article (http://bit.ly/2CmfZEv) recalls a book published in 1968 titled Toward the Year 2018, in which more than a dozen contributors tried to guess what the world would look like in 50 years—everything from its energy technologies to space travel to the social environment. ... READ MORE

Muddying the Waters on the Clean Water Rule

| Last week, the US Supreme Court made a unanimous ruling regarding the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the US, or WOTUS. Unfortunately, the decision doesn’t really settle much of anything; what it does do is clarify where challenges to the rule should be heard: in federal district courts. The rule has ... READ MORE

The Ongoing Controversy Over Beach Disposal

| Last week I wrote about the mudslides in Montecito, CA, and the cleanup effort. Some of the sediment and debris removed from roads and neighborhoods—and there are many tons of it to be removed—is being placed on local beaches. The cleanup continues; Highway 101 is open again as of Sunday, January 20, 11 days after ... READ MORE

Cigarettes Can Be Good for You—If You’re a Bird

| Along with discarded plastic of various kinds—plastic bags, drinking straws, fast-food containers, and the like—cigarette butts are one of the most widespread forms of trash in storm drains and waterways. They’re small enough to pass through many coarse filters, yet collectively they add up to tons of material—as much as 90,000 tons a year in ... READ MORE

What to Do With the Mud From Montecito

| As you might have seen or read in the past week, the community of Montecito, CA, has experienced catastrophic mudslides following the Thomas Fire. As I write this, 20 people are known to have died, several others are missing, dozens of homes have been completely destroyed, and hundreds more have been damaged. Montecito is a ... READ MORE

“Jesus, Please Don’t Let the Flood Come”

| Sometimes a federal agency just can’t win. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the flood insurance situation and so-called “hidden flood risk.” The term applies to properties that lie outside FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Areas but still have a moderate or high risk of flooding. FEMA has been criticized for not being stringent enough ... READ MORE

Missing the Forest for the Trees

| We generally think of trees as an asset: They help sequester carbon, prevent erosion, retain a significant amount of stormwater in the tree canopy if there are enough of them, and, in urban areas, can help reduce the heat island effect. Besides, they’re pretty; green spaces can even help increase the value of nearby real ... READ MORE

The Right Stuff: Tools to Make the Job Easier

| Have you ever managed a group of volunteers for some job-related effort—perhaps collecting water quality samples or applying labels to local storm drains? It can be rewarding and incredibly frustrating at the same time. Volunteers come in all ages, from elementary school groups to college students to senior citizens, and with a wide range of experience, from graduate-level training to exactly no experience. Frankly, some are more committed to the task than others. But there are a few ways to make the experience easier and more satisfying for everyone. ... READ MORE

One-Fifth of the World’s Freshwater

| The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world, and they’re in trouble. Besieged by polluted runoff from cities and farmlands that have caused toxic algae blooms, invaded by foreign species from lampreys to Asian carp, and losing thousands of acres of vital adjacent wetlands to agriculture, they nevertheless continue to provide drinking ... READ MORE