Stormwater runoff is a problem plaguing cities, but many people don’t know what to do about it. We say understanding is the first step, so let’s start there.
When you wake up to a stormy morning and look out your window, you likely think nothing of it. Rain happens all the time, after all. It’s just what nature does. The coffee, on the other hand, will not make itself.
And that’s about when the average person stops thinking about rain … if they even get that far.
The trouble is, not thinking about it doesn’t make it go away. Cities still deal with hundreds of billions of gallons of precipitation every year from both rain events and snowmelt.
Seriously, hundreds of billions. And where does it go? Right into our streets, sewers and waterways. It’s time to not only answer the question of what is stormwater runoff, exactly, but also to lay plans to manage it more effectively.
What Is Stormwater Runoff?
For starters, what is stormwater runoff?
“Stormwater runoff is rainfall that flows over the ground surface,” explains the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP). “It is created when rain falls on roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other paved surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground.”
Those paved surfaces are made from brick, cement, asphalt, concrete and other hard, impermeable materials that don’t let water through. Instead, it is forced to seek alternate routes out of the city: sewers, streams, rivers.
We have many such surfaces in our cities and suburban neighborhoods, and even have substantial swaths of impermeable surface in rural habitation areas, which we really need to do something about.
How Does Stormwater Impact the Environment?
It’s not enough simply to ask what is stormwater management, though. If you don’t also understand its impacts, then the issue will continue to go unaddressed.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to sum up all the ills of stormwater runoff in a single post. There are just so many, from mucking up waterways, to carrying disease through cities and wilderness areas, to washing chemicals and pollutants off our buildings and roads, and right into aquatic habitats. Detritus not only blocks up waterways, it erodes and poisons them as well.
These adulterants include “sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, oil and grease, trash, pesticides and metals,” says the CWP, adding that “Stormwater runoff is the number one cause of stream impairment in urban areas.”
In many cities, runoff also flowers through gutters and storm drains into combined sewers, where it joins raw sewage. When these systems get overrun – called a combined sewer overflow – all that toxic sludge comes right back up into our streets, where it heads to the nearest body of water.
Time to make a change.
What Strategies Can We Use to Mitigate Stormwater?
Now that we’ve answered the question of what is stormwater runoff, we hope you’ll join with us in taking steps to manage it.
Here at Ecogardens, we believe the absolute best solution is to install green infrastructure capable of managing stormwater in an efficient, natural and long-term way.
That means green roofs to reduce and slow down the stormwater that reaches the streets. It means rooftop gardens, rain gardens and bioswales, which suck up and filter stormwater before it gets to waterways and harms wildlife.
Don’t confuse this with gray infrastructure, which is just more impermeable surface, providing limited stormwater management and further opportunity for pollution. This’s like trying to lose weight by eating the “right” kinds of Doritos. It ain’t gonna work, y’all.
We need a new approach – and Ecogardens can help. Wants to, even. Is dying to. Like, really.
So if you’d like to talk more about stormwater runoff and management, or have an idea for a project you’d like to implement, we invite you to get in touch.