Resiliency & Natural Resources
- Increase Norwood’s climate resilience.
- Improve stormwater management in Norwood and ensure on-time compliance with Norwood’s municipal stormwater discharge permit (MS4 permit).
- Decrease heat islands in Norwood.
- Address critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, including dams.
- Protect water quality.
- Establish a water use reduction goal for the town.
- Implement a tree planting program to increase Norwood’s tree canopy, with a specific focus on existing hot spots where feasible.
- Establish a stormwater utility and adopt associated fees to cover costs of necessary stormwater infrastructure improvements and retrofits.
- Support U.S. EPA efforts to regulate significant private sources of stormwater pollution.
- Establish a capital infrastructure fund for stormwater infrastructure projects.
- Set higher standards for on-site stormwater infiltration, require replication of storage, and prioritize the use of nature-based solutions and green infrastructure.
- Investigate the practice of regenerative agriculture to increase soil absorption.
- Ensure on-time compliance with MS4 permit requirements.
- Update Norwood’s zoning by-law to comply with MS4 permit.
- Adopt a zoning amendment in 2021 that would increase the minimum landscaping/planting requirements on commercial lots.
- Change parking requirements to establish a maximum number of spaces rather than a minimum number of spaces; create more flexibility to allow and encourage shared parking arrangements.
- Monitor municipal parking lots usage and determine if the Town can make alterations to create adequate drainage for stormwater, including reducing the amount of pavement to create room for green infrastructure measures such as bioswales and rain gardens.
- Utilize porous pavement and other permeable materials as alternatives to asphalt and impervious materials wherever feasible on municipal property and incentivize the use of such materials on private property.
- Update Norwood’s local wetlands bylaw and regulations to consider and account for climate change impacts within the next two years.
- Investigate the feasibility and cost of repairing or removing existing dams, including available financing or funding options for dam removal through the state or non-profit organizations.
- Investigate the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, including the electric substation on Dean Street.
- Improve Norwood’s public health and safety infrastructure, including emergency notification systems and shelter capacity.
- Apply for funding from the state MVP program to implement one or more of these strategies.
- Determine areas of the highest risk for stormwater events, and focus on building up their resilient infrastructure.
- Town Meeting should create a special purpose stabilization fund exclusively for climate resiliency related infrastructure projects. Once adopted, all stormwater fee revenues should be transferred to this special purpose stabilization fund on an annual basis.
- Develop a water conservation plan program.
- Partner with Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) to promote awareness and the benefits of water conservation programs and create a “blue community” program to reduce the Town’s overall water consumption.
- Develop an incentive program for residential and commercial property owners who implement pre-approved water-saving technologies.
- Develop an incentive program for using water-saving type grasses, and use these strategies on public lands.
- Develop a local drought management plan. Even though we are part of the MWRA system, the Town residents should still be conscious of our water supply, which is not an unlimited resource.
- Establish non-essential outdoor water use restrictions based on the state drought condition levels.
As detailed in Norwood’s MVP report, Norwood has seen its share of extreme weather over the past decade: unprecedented rainfall in 2010 leading to a federal disaster declaration, record-breaking snow in 2015, a four-month drought in 2016, and a succession of four nor’easters in 2018. In June of 2020, Norwood was at the epicenter of torrential rain and flash flooding that caused impassable roads, property damage, and the extended closure of Norwood Hospital. In 2016 and again in 2020, the entire state experienced drought. Flooding from severe rain events, drought, storms, and extreme heat days and heatwaves are all predicted to continue to increase. Our town bylaws, regulations, and permitting and approval processes must take these considerations into account to build a more resilient community.
One major step towards building climate resilience is better managing stormwater to avoid flooding and capture and infiltrate more water on site. As we saw with the catastrophic flooding in 2020, even when our municipal stormwater system functions properly, it can quickly become overwhelmed by extreme rain events where water is flowing rapidly over paved surfaces without infiltrating into the ground. In a built-out town like Norwood, it is critical to reduce impervious surfaces like parking lots and require property owners to manage stormwater on-site not to overwhelm the municipal system. This can be done by employing low-impact development and green infrastructure measures and revising the Town’s Zoning Bylaw to minimize paved surfaces for parking and maximize areas for native vegetation and other natural features. The Town should also establish a stormwater utility to fund the high costs of operation, maintenance, and improvement of our stormwater infrastructure. Such a utility would function similarly to existing water and sewer utilities. Those contributing the most stormwater to the system would bear the highest burden for funding it, just like water and sewer. These measures will help the Town comply with its MS4 permit. This US EPA permit allows Norwood to discharge stormwater from its municipal system, which requires towns to make significant improvements in stormwater management.
It is imperative that the Town equitably complete the resiliency strategies, not only to prepare as many communities within Norwood as possible but to ensure that communities that are the most vulnerable are prepared for the next storm event. Like many municipalities across the US, numerous infrastructure improvements will need to be completed to improve the community’s resiliency to climate change. The Town of Norwood must complete these projects equitably and prioritize vulnerable neighborhoods first.
Other measures can help build climate resilience as well. Increasing the Town’s tree canopy and open space will provide cooling and reduce the heat island effect while also helping to reduce flooding. Ensuring high levels of protection for streams, wetlands, and the Neponset River will ensure these resources continue to provide natural climate resilience. Increasing infiltration of rainwater will make the Town more resilient to drought. Addressing critical infrastructure vulnerabilities and prioritizing infrastructure projects related to climate resilience will make the Town safer and better able to withstand extreme conditions.
Conserving water is another critical component of building resilience as water supplies are affected by climate change, droughts, population growth, energy concerns, and pollution. With over sixty-seven percent of the metered public water supply in Massachusetts being used for residential purposes, the Town should consider an investment in determining the water cost savings and the related energy cost savings that a conservation program would yield. The 2018 Massachusetts Water Conservation Standard is offered as a starting point for this effort. Particularly as we see more frequent droughts and other stresses on our water supply, residents should be cognizant of their water use - particular non-essential use like lawn watering - and implement conservation measures to protect this life-giving resource.