In January of 2013 the Alliance and it’s partners put their brains together to come up with the concept for RiverWise Congregations. Over the next year, with the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC), Anne Arundel Watershed Stewards Academy (AAWSA), Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR), and the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT), planning commenced for plantings and installations. RiverWise Congregations’ goal was to engage Houses of Worship in the reduction of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed rivers, streams, and creeks. This was accomplished through the installation of stormwater BMPs (Best Management Practices) at Houses of Worship throughout Anne Arundel County.

Throughout the duration of the grant, $1.2 million was spent at 22 Houses of Worship to retrofit for stormwater BMPs. The installations included rain gardens and barrels, pervious pavement and pavers, native plant gardens, and bioswales. Each House of Worship had a combination of installations, from pervious pavement to native plant gardens.The Alliance has worked with a variety of congregations to ensure our work is broad reaching. As a result of the work completed, we have reduced pollution reaching the Chesapeake watershed annually by 70 pounds of nitrogen, seven pounds of phosphorus, and two pounds of sediment.

In addition to installing stormwater BMPs on the Houses of Worship property, the project also provided funding for at least one person from each House of Worship to go through the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy (AAWSA) to become a trained Master Watershed Steward. This ensures that long after the Alliance installs the stormwater retrofits, they will be taken care of and maintained for optimal nutrient pollution reduction to continue. As part of each Watershed Steward’s capstone project, they had to host multiple workshops for their congregation to educate their peers on the importance of clean stormwater. This helped further the reach of the project audience, and a few participants went on to install retrofits at their homes or sign up for the AAWSA themselves.

The initial grant not only was a huge success in its pollution reduction, but it also sparked the start of three additional projects as part of RiverWise! In addition, the Alliance will be starting work on a $1.1 million dollar project at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church located in Annapolis, Maryland to restore a stream and reroute a pipe located on the property, treating an estimated 26 acres of stormwater before it enters Back Creek on the Severn River