Inland Waters, Vol 3, No 2 (2013)

Better management of construction sites to protect inland waters

William R. Trenouth, Bahram Gharabaghi, Andrea Bradford, Glenn MacMillan
Pages: 167-178


Several areas within the Lake Simcoe watershed, Canada, are experiencing rapid urban development. The construction of new homes and businesses is frequently associated with elevated rates of soil erosion stemming from land clearing and grading activities. During development, rates of soil erosion can climb to levels that are typically 200 times above background conditions, with the eroded sediments entering waterways and causing harm to the biota living therein. This is a serious challenge for the communities around Lake Simcoe because the transport of sediment has previously been identified as a contributor to the eutrophication of the lake’s waters. To mitigate the negative impacts associated with development, many jurisdictions across North America and elsewhere have developed a suite of construction-phase stormwater management (CPSWM) guidelines, which entail the use of onsite best management practices that capture, detain, and treat sediment-laden surface runoff. Here, we review CPSWM guidelines for effluent discharge and receiving water quality and discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Finally, proposed revisions to the current Ontario guidelines are suggested based on a combination of field observations at predevelopment and active construction sites, as well as the reviewed literature. If adopted, the proposed revisions would help to reduce sediment transport from construction sites in rapidly urbanizing areas such as Lake Simcoe.