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Stormwater Case Studies Search Results

Case Study Location: Vermont: Chittenden County

Case Study Title: Vermont Municipalities Join Forces to Finance Stormwater Education Campaign

Minimum Control Measure: Public education and outreach on stormwater impacts

Smart Water Ways LogoFaced with a deadline for implementing the Phase II General Permit, twelve small MS-4 communities and organizations in Chittenden County, Vermont faced a dilemma: how to finance an effective public outreach campaign and implement the public education and public involvement minimum control measures under the Phase II MS4 stormwater program without exceeding already tight municipal budgets.

The answer not only resulted in a sophisticated public education campaign; it was achieved at the modest cost of just $5,000 per community per year.

Location: Vermont: Chittenden County
Annual Rainfall: 39 inches
Population: 150,000
Year the Program Started: 2003

Contact Information:

Dan Senecal-Albrecht
Special Projects Planner
Vermont Chittenden County Regional Stormwater Educational Program
30 Kimball Ave
Suite 206
South Burlington, VT 05403
Phone: (802) 864-4490 x 29  
Fax: (802) 864-4494

Nelson Hoffman
Environmental Coordinator
Vermont Agency of Transportation
National Life Bldg
Drawer 33
Montpelier, VT 05633
Phone: (802) 828-0445  
Fax: (802) 828-2334


In 2003, state and local entities formed a collaborative regional organization, the Chittenden County Regional Stormwater Education Program (RSEP). Formed to maximize resources and minimize costs, the organization’s goal was to increase awareness and change behaviors. They hired a professional marketing company to craft their communications and marketing strategy. Using a process outlined in EPA's Getting in Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns, the company combined television, print and radio advertising with a website and educational events to publicize stormwater issues.


All of Vermont's Phase II MS4s are clustered around Burlington. Being close to Lake Champlain, most communities already had outreach programs promoting clean beaches and reducing water pollution. While the focus of their individual outreach campaigns differed, they shared a common theme – a desire for cleaner water.

An administrator at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources noted these similarities and proposed that if the MS4s pooled their resources in a regional stormwater educational effort, not only would they benefit from the clarity of a unified message, but they would also be spared the effort and expense of preparing their own individualized outreach campaigns.


Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission Logo

In 2003, a memorandum of understanding was prepared. It obligated each member to contribute $5,000 per year for five years to finance the regional outreach campaign.

RSEP’s members - nine communities and three non-traditional MS4s, the Burlington International Airport, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the University of Vermont – began monthly meetings under the auspices of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. The Commission traditionally coordinates and guides activities between state and local governments. Because most of the towns already had contracts for mapping or planning activities with the Commission, it was the logical choice to help administer the outreach campaign. The commission organized and supported the collaborative efforts of the 12 MS4s and helped to facilitate a consistent, region-wide stormwater educational advertising theme for the campaign.

A steering committee of the participating MS4s was formed to oversee the campaign’s content. Committee members were, by and large, engineers, wastewater plant operators and water supply operators, with limited experience in public outreach. Committee members decided to obtain the services of professional marketing consultants to ensure that the pooled resources for the media campaign were used most effectively and efficiently.

Marketing Professionals

Basing the campaign on a 2003 survey of Chittenden County residents conducted by the Lake Champlain Committee, the marketing firm devised a communication plan that employed marketing techniques to target audiences and employ messages that build on the campaign’s basic, tailored themes.

The campaign features a unified approach and a common, county-wide message. To conserve money, the marketing firm developed ads, with permission, from larger, already established, municipal stormwater programs, such as those developed by Oregon State University, San Bernardino County Exit EPA Site, and Las Vegas’ Stormwater Quality Management Committee Exit EPA Site.

The marketing firm set up ad contracts and bought advertising in newspapers and on radio stations. The firm’s public service announcements were carried on cable and government access television. The cornerstone of the campaign is an interactive website called "Smart Water Ways" Exit EPA Site.

Chittenden County's Phase II communities and organizations used municipal and organizational monies, $60,000 annually, to fund their outreach campaign. Each spring for the next three years, the RSEP will spend $20,500 to place ads targeting measures the public can take to prevent pollution resulting from car washing, gardening, and lawn maintenance. Another, smaller ad purchase will run in August and September, typically rainy months in the region. You can view these ads at Exit EPA Site.

Lessons Learned

By using their own funds (rather than federal or state grants, which often come with restriction), the communities streamlined the funding process, resulting in more agile decision-making and opening up the possibility of securing grants for other purposes.

For example, a grant from Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources funded the production of a five-minute introductory stormwater video, useful as a “scene-setter” at the start of public meetings. It also funded a 55-minute panel discussion discussing stormwater issues that was taped and rebroadcast on public access television.

The campaign’s ads attracted the attention of Vermont's Governor, who requested their inclusion in his Clean and Clear Initiative Exit EPA Site, a comprehensive program aimed at reducing excessive phosphorus loading into Lake Champlain.

Bigger communities like Burlington and South Burlington could have launched their own education campaigns because they have larger budgets. But for smaller towns, meeting Phase II public education requirements required a collaborative, resource-sharing agreement. In the case of Chittenden County’s MS4 communities, hiring a professional marketing company at a cost of $5,000 per community afforded the largest return on the smallest investment. Vermont Logo

Additional Materials Related to this Case Study:

Additional Resources and Tools for this Minimum Control Measure

EPA presents this case study as an example to which Phase I and Phase II municipal stormwater programs can refer as they develop their own stormwater programs. Although EPA has reviewed the case studies, they should not be considered officially endorsed by the Agency and are not intended to represent full compliance with EPA’s stormwater Phase II minimum control measures. Each community must decide on the appropriate BMPs necessary to meet its unique permit requirements and local conditions.

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Last updated on June 08, 2007 9:09 AM