An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Storm water management required for Air Force construction program

  • Published
  • By Chad Starr
  • Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment Public Affairs
Officials from the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment are working to enhance Air Force efforts to prevent water pollution caused by storm water runoff.

They are providing installations, major commands and the civil engineering community the advice, technical expertise and tools they need to ensure compliance with Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Enacted by Congress in 2007, Section 438 of the legislation established strict storm water runoff requirements for federal development and redevelopment projects. The Air Force is required to report compliance with Section 438 annually, beginning in fiscal 2012, using data posted by individual Air Force installations in the Automated Civil Engineering System for project management.

"Section 438 requires the Air Force sponsor of any facility project with a footprint over 5,000 square feet to use planning, design, construction and maintenance strategies and technologies to maintain or restore the hydrology of the property to predevelopment levels in terms of temperature, rate, volume and duration flow to the maximum extent technically feasible," said Dr. Larry Isaacs, the water quality subject matter expert at AFCEE.

Hydrology refers to the properties, distribution and movement of water on and below the earth's surfaces and the atmosphere.

Storm water runoff in urban and developing areas is one of the leading sources of water pollution in the U.S., according to officials from the Environmental Protection Agency. The new policy represents a shift to the next generation of storm water management.

Conventional storm water programs in use for two decades were designed to control pollutants commonly associated with municipal and industrial discharges like nutrients, sediment and metals.

"With the urbanization of our cities, we have significantly increased the areas of land that are impervious, like parking lots, streets and building roofs," Dr. Isaacs said. "Although states have regulated storm water runoff from development activities, our experience has shown that conventional runoff controls have not fully protected our nation's streams, rivers and lakes."

According to Dr. Isaacs, planners will be required to consider these impacts early in the planning and design stages of construction so that green infrastructure and low-impact development can be economically integrated and constructed with the optimum hydrological benefit.

"GI and LID practices are dependent upon the local climate, soils and project storm water hydrology," Dr. Isaacs said. "The Air Force needs to use a variety of storm water low-impact and green infrastructure practices to comply with Section 438. Typical projects include rain gardens, vegetated swales, blue roofs, green roofs, porous pavements and detention ponds. Each of these features has pros and cons requiring careful evaluation prior to construction. One of the most important elements to consider prior to design and construction is the operations and maintenance of GI or LID. Minimum maintenance activities ensure GI or LID operate as designed."

To assist in Section 438 compliance, officials from the AFCEE Technical Division included guidance in the Office of The Air Force Civil Engineer's policy on sustainable design development issued June 2, and briefed the air staff and major command leaders on Section 438 requirements.

They also developed a tool to assist base civil engineering staffs in evaluating their project pre-development and post-development hydrology parameters. The tool enables engineers to run different scenarios quickly to find the best solutions for a specific project. Users on a ".mil" domain can download the tool from the Air Force/A7C eDASH website at