Landscaping Professionals: Working for Cleaner Water and a Cleaner Look

Stormwater is the water that runs off of houses, streets, parking lots, and other hard surfaces during rain events. It has been identified as a major cause of water pollution.
Landscaping Professionals: Working for Cleaner Water and a Cleaner Look - Articles


Photo: Diane Oleson, Penn State Extension

This water, which doesn't soak in to the ground as it would in a forest, runs across hard surfaces collecting pollutants on the ground surface as it goes. Storm drains, gullies, and road-side swales collect the stormwater and dump it directly in streams, rivers and lakes. The pollutants picked up by stormwater include oils, chemicals, pet waste, soil, trash and more.

To help correct the issues caused by stormwater, communities with Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) are required to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of stormwater leaving the community. They can either improve water quality by altering their sewer and storm drain networks, a very expensive undertaking, or by installing green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is any water management practice that uses plants or a natural process to reduce runoff from the land to improve water quality. Green infrastructure can be a cost effective option that also provides benefits such as wildlife habitat, health benefits, and improved landscape aesthetics.

Green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, pervious pavement, bioswales, and tree plantings, often rely on vegetation to help remove pollutants and slow down water flow. The care of the plants and related maintenance determines how effective the practice will be and how long it will continue to function. Since green infrastructure is relatively new, many landscape contractors are unaware of the maintenance needs of a project since they can't be mowed, mulched, or fertilized in the same way a traditional landscape is. Improper maintenance can greatly impair the efficiency of the structure or practice and in many cases, remove any benefit from installation.

The Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) Certification program was developed to help increase landscapers knowledgeable about green infrastructure projects. CBLP trains and certifies landscape professionals so that they are comfortable working with green infrastructure in order to communities reduce and improve stormwater runoff. The program was piloted in 2016 in Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia but is now available in Pennsylvania. The first Pennsylvania training will be held July 24-25 in Lancaster. Candidates for the certification must have a degree, certificate, or certification in a related field, or have professional experience in landscape design, installation, or maintenance. To apply or to learn more about the certification visit