Center for Watershed Protection works to care for waterways

Center for Watershed Protection works to care for waterways

Dave Hirschman and Laurel Woodworth are serious about their work with the Center for Watershed Protection, a national nonprofit with a mission to clean up and care for waterways in Virginia and beyond.

But they try to bring a little levity to the job when they can. Hirschman, the director of CWP’s Charlottesville office, and Woodward, a watershed planner there, once pulled out a harmonica and spoons during a conference in California for a bluesy jam—about water quality, naturally.

“You gotta break up the geekiness,” Woodworth said.

Geeky is one way to look at what they do. Their work in Charlottesville—CWP’s hub in Virginia—centers largely on consulting. Along with employees in Richmond and Leesburg, they keep tabs on state-level policy, help local governments interpret and implement federal and state stormwater management regulations, and develop scientific publications and manuals on everything from restoring urban streams to the impacts of impervious surfaces on runoff.

But they also get very hands-on, both on a local and state level. CWP was hired by the City of Charlottesville back in 2008 to conduct a map and field study that analyzed the local watershed and then examined how to slow down and filter stormwater runoff on school grounds, in parks, and on other publicly owned lands. They worked in the field to identify problem sites, and mapped out solutions, from a man-made wetland in Azalea Park to a rainwater harvesting system at Charlottesville High School. The project ultimately grew to include a number of agencies, including the city, the Rivanna River Basin Commission, and later UVA.

“We love seeing that—when something starts as a twinkle in our eye when we’re at the site, and it turns into all these partners,” said Hirschman. “And their energy, and their excitement and enthusiasm turn into something on the ground.”

CWP has also stepped up efforts to combat what are known as “illicit discharges”—pollution that comes from leaking pipes, sewer lines, or other hidden sources in the landscape. Unlike stormwater, which pours into the sewer system only when it rains, leaky pipes are a steady source of pollution, so they’re important to track down. “And it’s fun—it’s detective work,” Woodworth said.

For Woodworth, exploring and protecting waterways is a personal passion as well as a job. The UVA graduate spent more than a month this spring and summer tracing Virginia rivers and streams by foot and kayak on a 400-mile trek from the state’s western mountains to the Atlantic. Friends and coworkers from CWP were there to meet her with a toast when her journey ended near Accomac on the Eastern Shore.

Having such dedicated professionals working on water quality issues helps everyone, said Scott Crafton, the Special Projects Coordinator within the division of Stormwater Management at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“They’re internationally renowned in the field of stormwater management and watershed management, so to have an office right here in Charlottesville and to have long term relationships with a few of the people that work there is a real plus for Virginia,” he said.—Allie Cooper and Graelyn Brashear

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