Stormwater Management: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Stormwater Management: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Based on our day-to-day practices and the chemicals we use, we are slowly but surely polluting the ground, as well as the freshwater we so desperately need to survive. Often, we consider stormwater to be nature’s wheelhouse, or a city problem, but we continuously fail to see how we affect the water and what we can do to help remedy ongoing issues. Understanding stormwater management, what it is, and why it’s important will allow our communities to join efforts with associations dedicated to water preservation and protection.

What Key Terms and Associations Are Important?

Before we delve into the definitions and explanations of stormwater and its best management practices, we should cover the associations dedicated to protecting water and the environment, which consequently protects us. It is also helpful to know key terminology that is associated with this topic. Embarking on a journey of truly understanding water, how it travels, and how we maintain it will make this list essential and familiar.

  • EPA- Environmental Protection Agency
  • SCM- Stormwater Control Measure
  • NPDES Stormwater Program- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
  • BMP- Best Management Practices
  • SWPPPs- Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans

What Is Stormwater Management?

Stormwater management is the work done to help reduce runoff of various forms of precipitation into our streets, lawns, and other areas. It is also the improvement of water quality based on the standards of the EPA. For lighter stormwater, it is absorbed into soil which filters the water and either replenishes aquifers (permeable rock containing groundwater to provide drinkable water) or flows into streams or rivers.

When the level of precipitation outweighs what the ground can absorb, the saturated ground creates excess moisture. This pooling on the surface runs into storm sewers and ditches on the road. On its way, it tends to pick up debris, pollutants, chemicals, eroded soil, and harmful microbes, depositing these toxins into bodies of water in the area such as rivers, lakes, and streams.

What Does It Affect?

As stated, stormwater that becomes polluted is flowing into larger bodies of water. As it affects the water quality by carrying disease-causing bacteria or viruses, this stormwater runoff makes water unsafe to marine life and to humans for swimming, drinking, or even fishing.

The environmental issues associated with unsafe stormwater runoff can cause many compounded issues. It can erode stream banks and damage many miles of habitat for aquatic life. It may also push excess nutrients from waste, fertilizers, and other sources into the water bodies.

How Can It Be Improved?

BMP ordinance is meant to promote health and safety regarding our stormwater. Additionally, it works toward resource conservation and minimizing pollutants within communities and jurisdictions. Any practice, whether physical, chemical, or structural, can help to reduce and treat water contamination to prevent soil erosion and protect the sediment that enters the roadways and nearby properties.

Using green infrastructures, stormwater can be captured and reused. Green infrastructure helps protect and restore stormwater, or function as a natural water cycle would to enhance community safety. It entails the planting of trees and restoring wetlands and other natural measures to filter water through, rather than constructing water treatment plants.

Gray infrastructure is another option. This entails the installation and utilization of gutters, storm sewers, and piped and roadway drainage systems. The NPDES group has created and implemented programs to help industrial, commercial, and municipal platforms achieve full compliance with stormwater regulations required federally, statewide, and locally.

How Does It Get Polluted?

Sometimes, water becomes polluted by the products we use and the inappropriate ways we choose to dispose of them. Other times, stagnant water simply gets too many opportunities to pick up toxins that are on the ground that were deposited by cars, machines, and other things we use. The water standing also lends critters time to make their deposits to it, and bacteria is just something that grows.

The sooner we can usher water out of its sitting state, the better. Nature lends a hand in filtering and purifying water, but that’s through permeable pavements, soils, and media mix such as mulch or compost. We need to avoid oversaturation and pooling in order to minimize the opportunity for water to become polluted.

What Can You Do?

One little thing you can do to help minimize stormwater problems is to maintain your vehicles, so they aren’t leaking fluids onto the ground to be swept up with runoff. Rather than washing your car in your driveway or street, take it to a commercial car wash with proper filtration and drainage systems.

Reduce your use of pesticides, fertilizers, and harmful herbicides (weedkillers). Maintain your septic system if it’s in your control. Finally, clean up chemical spills on your property with absorbing agents rather than hosing them off of leaving them until it rains.

What’s Proper Drainage?

Ditches and storms are not connected to treatment systems. Typically, what flows through these channels goes directly into the nearest body of water. SWPPPs are developed aids in the improved management of water. This is done through proper drainage design, separate storm and sewer systems, creating a plan for the traveling of drainage and having it inspected, and meeting compliance policies.

ABT takes pride in being able to communicate the needs and effectiveness of proper drainage solutions. Our certified drainage professionals understand the importance of using the proper mode of transporting water to keep it, the ecosystem, and the surrounding area and its inhabitants healthy and safe. There are many options for different commercial drains, but there are a lot of defining factors that help to make the decision on which is appropriate based on location, water volume, and circumstance. It’s best to consult a professional for questions regarding these parameters.

How Do You Remove Pollutants?

SCMs are created to remove pollutants from urban runoff. Their design also helps improve water quality and control the quantities before reaching our streams and drinking water supply. There are structural and non-structural approaches for SCMs. Non-structural entail vegetative buffers along waterways, impervious areas, and the promotion of natural runoff prior to meeting the stream. Pollution preventing practices are also included, such as maintaining parking lots by sweeping regularly and implementing environmental outreach programs.

Structural SCMs are permanent structures that are designed and maintained to remove pollutants from runoffs. These can be stormwater wetlands, bio-retention cells, installed infiltration basins, or detention areas and ponds.

When it comes to stormwater management, what it is, and why it’s important, there’s really no short answer. There are a lot of moving parts regarding the needs, usage, filtration, preservation, and conservation of our water. The more easily it can be navigated to the necessary channels, the more useful it will be.

Stormwater Management Infographic