Connecting Delta Cities

Washington DC

Washington DC

Climate change adaptation

The District of Columbia has been active in addressing climate change impacts through enhancing stormwater and flood risk management programmes. Examples of these programmes include the following. 

Washington, DC Silver Jackets governance, interagency projects, and flood awareness campaign
The DC Silver Jackets are an interagency team consisting of members of federal, District of Columbia, and regional agencies, as well as academia. The team leverages resources to identify and implement comprehensive, resilient, and sustainable solutions to reduce flood risk around the District and the region.

Washington, DC formalized its Silver Jackets team in 2014 through an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), currently signed by 12 federal and District agencies. However, the full team extends well beyond these agencies. The Department of Energy and Environment is the lead agency for the District. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District and the National Park Service jointly lead the federal agencies.

The DC Silver Jackets have established five task groups: Development of Flood
Inundation Mapping/Stream Gauges; Flood Emergency Planning; Interior Drainage Flooding; Levee Certification and Accreditation; and Flood Risk Communication. Each task group has its own specific responsibilities that will aid in fulfilling the team’s mission and goals.

DC Silver Jackets’ interagency projects include:

  • Flood inundation mapping tool
    This new, online mapping tool displays the predicted extent and depth of flooding along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The tool allows government leaders, emergency managers, and the public to view potential flood impacts during high-water events along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and make emergency response decisions.

  • Potomac River flood-fighting exercise 
    During this one-day exercise event, representatives from all necessary agencies walked through a planned storm scenario and determined what actions they would take. Afterwards, the team regrouped to address any changes that may need to be made to the draft Flood Emergency Manual. This exercise was to ensure better effectiveness of the manual and help the affected agencies to be better prepared for future flood events. The updated manual will also feed into a later project to develop a city-wide flood emergency plan.

  • DC flood awareness campaign
    The 2016 DC flood awareness campaign is an important opportunity, firstly to make people and the many agencies and organizations more aware of their real and increasing flooding risks, secondly to showcase the efforts of the DC Silver Jackets in reducing these risks and building community resilience, thirdly to promote actions and collaboration by stakeholders, and finally to engage the media. 
    The campaign will commemorate past flood occurrences, discuss recent enhanced prediction and mitigation efforts, and consider future events of potentially higher magnitude. Multiple events will be conducted at various locations throughout Washington, DC. Outreach materials, including a web page, multimedia videos, and informational flyers and brochures will also be created. The signature event of the campaign will be the 2016 DC Flood Summit, a day-long event to be held on 8 September 2016 in the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.

  • Building resilient Watts Branch communities in a changing climate
    This is an upcoming interagency project to assess and provide strategies for watershed-based flood risk reduction and community engagement in one of Washington, DC’s most vulnerable areas, the area by the Watts Branch, a tributary stream of the Potomac River, that is at risk of flooding and adverse climate impacts.

More information about the DC Silver Jackets is available at:

The Stormwater Retention Credit trading programme

As part of its strategy for retrofitting impervious surfaces with runoff-reducing green infrastructure such as green roofs and rain gardens, Washington, DC has developed a first-of-its-kind Stormwater Retention Credit (SRC) trading programme. Properties generate SRCs for voluntary green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff. Owners trade their SRCs in an open market to others who use them to meet regulatory requirements for retaining stormwater. Revenue creates incentives to install green infrastructure that protects rivers and provides other benefits.

For full programme details, please go to:

RiverSmart programme

The DC RiverSmart programmes provide incentives to Washington, DC property owners to install green infrastructure in an effort to reduce stormwater runoff that harms the District’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. The RiverSmart programmes are designed to encourage the installation of stormwater practices on properties that otherwise would not be required to do so because they are either too small to trigger stormwater regulations (single family homes), or they don’t have plans to redevelop in the near future. These incentives, combined with the District’s stormwater utility fee, which is tied to the impervious surface area on a parcel, provide both a ‘carrot’ and a ‘stick’ for property owners to retrofit their properties with green infrastructure. 

The RiverSmart programme began in 2007 with a programme aimed at homeowners, but has since expanded to include incentives aimed at schools and large commercial properties. Since its inception, the District’s RiverSmart programme has grown into perhaps the United States’ most comprehensive and aggressive stormwater incentive package. RiverSmart consists of six distinct offerings that cover most properties in the District. These offerings include:

  • RiverSmart homes 
    Aimed at single family homeowners, this offering provides financial incentives to help them install green infrastructure such as rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement, and shade trees.

  • RiverSmart communities 
    Designed for larger buildings such as apartment buildings, housing cooperatives, condominiums, houses of worship, and locally-owned businesses, this programme offers larger incentives and more engineered practices such as stormwater planters, cisterns, and bioretention.

  • RiverSmart schools 
    This initiative installs projects similar to RiverSmart communities on school grounds, and includes training, technical support, professional development, and field trips to educate teachers and support staff on utilizing the green infrastructure in their lesson plans. Installations often also include the construction of outdoor classroom areas.

  • RiverSmart rooftops 
    This is a green roof incentive programme that is open to all property owners and offers between $10 and $15 per square foot of green roof installed. For smaller rooftops, the programme helps to pay any necessary structural assessment costs.

  • RiverSmart rebates 
    This offers rebates to property owners who want to hire their own contractor or install the stormwater project themselves. Utilizing the rebate process helps property owners to avoid waiting for a DOEE ‘stormwater audit’.

  • RiverSmart rewards 
    This provides a discount on the District’s stormwater utility fee of up to 55 per cent for landowners who retrofit their property to control stormwater pollution. The rewards programme can also reduce the DC Water Clean Rivers charge by four per cent.

For more information, please go to:

Watershed and stream restoration projects

Watershed and stream restoration is the re-establishment of the structure and function of ecosystems and floodplains. The goal is to return the ecosystem as closely as possible to its natural conditions and its functions prior to development. The removal of dams and other barriers to fish and wildlife movement in and along rivers and streams presents a real opportunity to enhance the ability of our riverine organisms and habitat to withstand the effects of climate change, as well as safeguard important infrastructure from severe flooding.

Coastal and riverine floodplain and stream restoration (and stabilization) can be

successful methods in providing benefits of flood risk reduction, improving water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as providing recreational opportunities and erosion control. Restoration of adversely impacted, flood-prone river systems is accomplished by restoring floodplains and associated wetlands through connectivity and storage, and by modifying the physical stability, hydrology, and biological functions of the impaired river banks to those of a natural, stable river with periodic bank overflow. The floodplain of a riverine or stream system provides capacity for storing stormwater runoff, reducing the number and severity of floods, and minimizing non-point source pollution. Restoring floodplains and wetlands and their native vegetation are integral components of stream restoration efforts.

For more information on the projects, please go to: 

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