Green Stormwater Infrastructure: Training the Next Generation in Water Conservation Best Management Practices


California’s winter brought record precipitation and snow to communities throughout the Golden State. Unfortunately, due to the prolonged drought the State has faced over the last decade, water that was not immediately captured in reservoirs or aquifers became runoff, sometimes causing urban flooding. The cycle of longer droughts and infrequent but intense water events requires a new approach to water management, including how communities capture and store stormwater. In order to prepare for these new Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) systems, the Orange County Conservation Corps (OCCC) has developed a two-pronged training program to ensure the next generation is equipped with the knowledge and skillset to plan, install, and maintain urban GSI.


Orange County Conservation Corps first GSI program corpsmembers


OCCC’s stormwater capture training program combines both classroom learning and hands-on skills development. In the classroom, GSI experts teach training participants (corpsmembers) the fundamentals of urban stormwater capture, best management practices, and the importance of creating resilient and manageable stormwater capture systems. From the classroom, corpsmembers travel to a field location where they implement their knowledge in the installation of GSI. Common GSI include bioswales and rain gardens, but others may be familiar with green roofs and permeable pavement. Each form of GSI requires its own unique plan and installation regimen not limited to grading, trenching, installation of gravel and groundcover, and the planting and propagation of appropriate vegetation. Corpsmembers, therefore, develop a holistic approach to GSI that takes into account engineering aspects, landscape design, and hydrology.


To date, OCCC has trained one cohort of corpsmembers as part of its GSI program and will be entering into its second cohort in late spring. Each cohort will range from 10-20 corpsmembers, depending on interest and number of experts available to teach. Once each cohort is complete, corpsmembers will have the understanding and skills to work on a number of GSI projects within various communities. As part of these cohorts, corpsmembers will be installing two bioswales at OCCC Headquarters in Anaheim that will serve as demonstration sites for the public. The bioswales are anticipated to be completed by July 1.


While OCCC’s stormwater capture training program will not resolve all immediate needs that Southern California faces, corpsmembers will be better equipped to help communities prepare for prolonged droughts, capture more precious runoff, and adapt to a changing climate through resilient best management practices.


Established in 1993, OCCC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Anaheim, California serving young, at-risk adults through training, employment, and educational programs that build self-sufficiency and benefit the community through conservation-driven projects. OCCC is a certified Local Conservation Corps by the State of California.