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Storm Water Design Strategy: Integrating Cultural Perspectives

Considering cultural perspectives in storm water management design better equips U.S. Air Force effectiveness in adapting to regulatory change.

By Kristen L. Melendez, M.S. and Jeffrey D. Magaw, P.E. 


OJan. 19, 2010, the United States Department of Defense (DOD) issued a policy memorandum directing military components to implement EISA 2007 Section 438 to lessen the impacts of increased storm water runoff from construction.  Use of Low Impact Development (LID) methodology, in lieu of traditional storm water management techniques, can result in considerable reduction of total storm water runoff and associated pollutants.  LID is a decentralized management approach that aims to treat storm water close to where it originated.  

With a new management approach for storm water on the horizon, New Boston Air Force Station (New Boston AFS) sought to reduce potential resistance to change within the workforce that could result from EISA 2007 Section 438 compliance.  New Boston AFS is home of the 23rd Space Operations Squadron which is part of the Air Force Satellite Control Network.   The station is situated on about 2800-acres, with approximately 200-acres developed for the operational mission.   Conventional Storm water management systems exist throughout the developed area.  As part of implementing EISA, New Boston AFS gathered baseline cultural data from employees about their knowledge and biases of LID technologies. 




USAF drafted and issued a storm water management (SWM) LID survey to Civil Engineering (CE) personnel in Spring 2015.  The survey specifically targeted individuals employed in environmental, engineering, facility operations, and maintenance positions.  The survey was distributed with the goal of identifying preferences for improved SWM technologies, and barriers to implementing LID practices at New Boston AFS.  Within one week, 85 percent of questionnaires were returned.    

Survey results showed there was a predisposition amongst CE that porous pavement and permeable pavers are worthwhile SWM practices.  Specifically, when asked to name SWM LID practices that are locally effective, there was a substantial response for permeable pavers and porous pavement.  With more than half of CE having a preconceived positive opinion of porous pavement,  permeable pavers, and rain gardens, USAF reasoned that these practices would be the most likely to receive widespread support for installation at New Boston AFS. 

CE appeared ready to support installation of an LID system on the base.  Respondents considered LID system installation to be widely available in the region, and most have an overall understanding about how SWM practices are chosen for each project site.  Nearly all indicated that they believe installation of storm water LID practices would provide benefits to the base. In comparison to conventional SWM methods, more than half of CE conveyed that LID systems work well when compared to their traditional counterparts.  However, CE indicated any proposed LID systems need to be low in cost, low in maintenance requirements, effective in performance, and beneficial in environmental effects in order to gain their confidence and support.  The top concern regarding LID system functionality amongst CE was proper maintenance of the systems, with nearly half of respondents making this selection. 

The survey data helped to identify training needs at New Boston AFS. Although a majority of those surveyed were familiar with SWM LID practices, 93 percent of respondents indicated that CE personnel do not currently have the proper knowledge to install and/or maintain LID management systems. Additionally, three in four persons believed that CE personnel should have some form of formal training or education prior to installation of a LID system.  One misconception that surfaced was that LID systems harbor insect reproduction, and therefore would require increased pest control measures.  In actuality, LID systems are engineered for complete water infiltration in less than the amount of time it takes for mosquito larvae to hatch.  This is an important finding from the study, as the misunderstanding was present in 20 percent of the sample population.






The survey data provided invaluable insight for New Boston AFS leaders, as it represents a unique snapshot in time of New Boston AFS cultural preferences and attitudes toward SWM LID practices.  CE management learned that its workforce was generally supportive of installing and maintaining LID systems: most notably porous pavement, permeable pavers, and rain gardens.  CE personnel felt generally inexperienced, so it became clear that training is essential prior to proceeding with LID management systems installation.  

The training provided at New Boston AFS should focus on describing practices that have proven reliable in the New England area, to increase CE’s confidence in LID systems. A section of the training should be dedicated to explain standing water within LID systems.  Any training should also clarify that systems are designed to filtrate the capacity that is appropriate for a drainage area.  As New Boston AFS implements LID systems, site-specific training will be incorporated into each project execution.



New Boston AFS leaders are able to make better decisions about which LID technologies to propose after review of the survey data.  CE project planners are now tailoring project programming and designs to include LID systems that are most likely to receive CE support. 

Effectually, projects are being created at New Boston AFS that are preferable to the end-user from conception.  This approach sets the stage for cohesiveness within CE between maintenance personnel and engineers.  Costs associated with and unexpected change-orders during project construction due to personnel resistance to implementation are essentially eliminated. 

The framework for this study can be used to track cultural perceptions and preferences at New Boston AFS over time, for example at three or five-year intervals.  Furthermore, other military installations can use the survey as a template to establish local barriers, misconceptions, knowledge gaps, bias, and preferences for implementation of LID SWM systems, or other regulatory change. 

A full copy of the survey and findings was sent to the Air Force Civil Engineering Center (AFCEC) East Region Installation Support Team at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to explore application of the survey at other Air Force installations. 


Kristen L. Melendez, M.S. is Compliance & Pollution Prevention Manager and Jeffrey D. Magaw, P.E., is Chief, Civil Engineer Programs at New Boston Air Force Station. They can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Disclosure: This study was conducted as part of a Master’s Degree research program by Ms. Kristen L. Melendez. Dr. Shannon H. Rogers was the advisor for this project at the Center for the Environment, Plymouth State University, Plymouth NH.  The data contained in this study have not previously been published.