Urbanization may be good for the economy, but the increase in impermeable surfaces can cause damaging effects to the natural water cycle. When rain falls on pervious surfaces, like vegetated areas, it is absorbed; taken up by trees and plants; or flows into rivers, streams or wetlands, naturally.
Poorly managed stormwater can cause serious damage to our waterways, by creating downstream erosion, carrying pollutants into our waters and causing localized flooding. Impervious surfaces, like roads, sidewalks
and roofs, prevent infiltration of rainwater and results in large amounts of runoff. Instead of being absorbed, rainwater flows into the nearest stormwater drain or into local waters. The water transports with it pollutants like oils; salt; fertilizers; yard clippings; soil and litter, which can be harmful to habitats, wildlife and drinking water.
Stormwater Best Management Practices, or BMPs, are tools to manage stormwater runoff. They reduce the speed and volume of runoff and filter out pollutants. Implementing BMPs improve stream health by preventing erosion, alleviating localized flooding, and reducing the amount of pollutants that enter our streams. Pollution and flood prevention is much more affordable than cleaning polluted water and repairing infrastructure after the damage has been done.
Benefits of effective stormwater runoff management include:
• Protecting wetlands and aquatic ecosystems
• Improved quality of receiving water bodies
• Water conservation
• Protecting public health, and
• Flood control
Each of us can do our part in keeping stormwater clean. With the spring time approaching, here are some projects you can plan for around your homes to prevent pollutants and other materials from entering storm drains.
Build a rain garden, planter box
A rain garden is similar to a regular garden, except it is designed to receive extra rain from roofs, paved areas, or roads and allows water to move slowly through the garden, filtering the rain water. Planter boxes are a great option for homeowners and can double as a flower or vegetable garden.
Create a simple rooftop disconnection
A Roof Top Disconnection directs rainwater into the landscape where it can spread out, slow down and infiltrate. This also directs rain water away from house foundations, which can get damaged and/or flooded in low-lying areas like a basement.
Install permeable or grass block pavers
Permeable pavement increases infiltration and groundwater recharge, while reducing the volume and rate of runoff. The grid system installation allows homeowners to extend their lawns while still being able to park on it without any damage.
For more information on stormwater best management practices, visit epa.gov. This article includes additional information from the Environmental Protection Agency.