When not properly managed, stormwater contributes to a number of serious problems. In fact, because it collects contaminants like pesticides, bacteria, oil and other chemicals as it runs off solid surfaces, stormwater runoff is a leading cause of water pollution. It can harm the ecosystems around waterways, kill fish and contaminate municipal drinking water supplies. For these reasons, it is extremely important for cities to have efficient and effective stormwater management plans in place.
As technology evolves and new stormwater regulations are enacted, newer systems and strategies are being developed and put into use in cities and towns throughout across the globe. Here are a few current stormwater management trends.
Traditional Storm Drains
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best. While developers are working to create innovative solutions for stormwater management, there is still a huge need for traditional storm drain systems. Culverts and other devices must be installed to direct rain runoff and snowmelt. They play a vital role in preventing erosion, minimizing flooding and keeping stormwater out of municipal water supplies.
Rainwater Irrigation Systems
Using rainwater for irrigation systems is one stormwater management technique that is being used to not only deal with runoff but also decrease water consumption. With the right pumping and filtration systems, water from roofs and other impervious surfaces can be collected and used to water flower beds, lawns, and crops.
Temporary Containment of Runoff
When rainwater and snowmelt have nowhere to go, the overflow runs across impervious surfaces until eventually ending up in water supplies and municipal sewer systems. By installing a system to temporarily contain this excess water, it is often possible to absorb runoff safely. Options for temporarily containing runoff include rain gardens, dry wells, retaining walls, terraces, bioswales, and mulches.
In areas where most surfaces are impermeable and there is simply nowhere for the water to go, developers are increasingly turning to the tactic of installing constructed wetlands. Man-made retaining ponds and wetlands in housing developments or near commercial centers are created to address runoff issues and treat greywater while providing habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Green roofs are one of the more unique stormwater management trends. Instead of being covered only in surfaces like asphalt shingles or metal, these living roofs are designed with gardens and vegetation. They are capable of soaking up huge amounts of rainwater, and they can be quite beautiful.
In urban and suburban areas, surfaces like asphalt and concrete prevent stormwater from soaking into the ground. Recent advancements in the development of water-permeable concrete, asphalt, and pavers help eliminate this problem by allowing water to soak through rather than run off. When used in parking lots, driveways and other areas that are typically paved using non-permeable materials, these innovative alternatives can drastically reduce runoff from rain and snow.
Why Stormwater Management Is Important
As already mentioned, stormwater management is extremely important for a number of reasons. When cities and communities are built and developed, we replace forests and wetlands with pavement and buildings. While rain soaks into the ground in natural areas, surfaces like concrete and asphalt make the ground in developed areas impervious. When it rains or snow melts, all of that water has to go somewhere. And when it can’t soak into the ground, it runs off roofs, parking lots and driveways to pool in ditches and storm drains.
Along the way, stormwater can pick up a lot of nasty pollutants, including chemicals, pesticides, fertilizer, oil, bacteria, and gasoline. When not properly treated, all that pollution winds up in our rivers, lakes, streams — and eventually the ocean. The pollution contained in stormwater runoff is one of the primary threats to clean water in the United States, so developing and implementing methods of effectively dealing with it is vital.
By taking steps to soak up the rain, it is possible to keep it close to the area where it falls and reduce the amount that runs off from driveways, roofs and parking lots. This reduces pollution and flooding while helping to protect drinking water. More benefits include:
Improving Climate Resilience
Climate resilience is defined as a socio-ecological system’s ability to maintain function when faced with external stresses caused by climate change. Our climate is changing, and as certain areas become wetter, dryer, hotter or colder, the right stormwater infrastructure can help improve a community’s climate resilience. When we plant trees or other vegetation to soak up the rain, we can also help cool the area in urban neighborhoods.
Creating Habitats for Wildlife
When we develop wetlands and plant grasses, trees and native plants, we create habitats for birds and other types of wildlife. We also create areas that are suitable for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
The Future of Stormwater Management
Developing effective and efficient methods of dealing with stormwater is extremely important. Doing so helps keep pollution out of waterways and maintain clean drinking water. While traditional stormwater management devices like culverts will likely always be necessary, planners and developers are embracing trends like green roofs and man-made wetlands to solve the problems caused by rainwater runoff while beautifying communities.
About The Author, Kopelman Sitton Law Firm: Richard Kopelman and Clint W. Sitton co-founded Kopelman Sitton Law Group with the singular goal of providing personalized, quality representation to those who unfortunately suffered catastrophic injuries and death, or the destruction or loss of property as the result of negligence or misconduct of others. They strive to provide top of the line service to their customers and sharing information to readers from a legal point of view.