What is Stormwater?

Stormwater is water from rain, melting snow and ice. Stormwater can seep into the soil. It can also be held on the surface and evaporate. Lastly stormwater can run off and end up in a nearby stream, river, or other body of water. Before land is developed with buildings, roadways and agriculture, the majority or storm water soaks into the soil or evaporates. In an undeveloped area like a forest or prairie the soil absorbs considerable amounts of rainwater.

Plants hold the rainwater close to where it falls so very little runs off. Plant leaves and stems capture and slow rainfall. Once slowed the rainfall can seep through decaying plant material on the surface and soak into the ground. Some of this water will slowly flow though the soil to a nearby body of water. When stormwater is absorbed into the soil, it is filtered. This water then ultimately replenishes aquifers or flows into streams and rivers. Water that seeps down to the groundwater can be released to the surface by springs. During heavy rains runoff flows over the ground. It is slowed and filtered by the plants before reaching surface waters.

What is Runoff?

Large amounts of runoff are produced as populations grow and cities expand. Rooftops, concrete, asphalt and other surfaces that are built to shed water create runoff. Rather than soaking into the soil and slowly seeping to surface water, runoff quickly funnels through storm drainage systems directly to surface water. When heavy rainwater hits, ground saturated by water creates excess moisture that runs across the surface and into storm sewers and road ditches. This water often carries debris, chemicals, bacteria, eroded soil, and other pollutants, and carries them into streams, rivers, lakes, or wetlands. The natural process of infiltration, evaporation, and filtering are greatly reduced in highly populated areas. The speed of runoff is greatly increased in.

What is Stormwater Management?

Stormwater management is the effort to reduce runoff of rainwater or melted snow into streets, lawns and other sites and the improvement of water quality, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In urban and developed areas, impervious surfaces such as pavement and roofs prevent precipitation from naturally soaking into the ground. Instead, water runs rapidly into storm drains, sewer systems and drainage ditches and can cause flooding, erosion, storm and sanitary sewer system overflow, and infrastructure damage. However, stormwater design and “green infrastructure” capture and reuse runoff to maintain or restore natural water sources.

Controlling runoff and removing pollutants is the primary purpose of stormwater management. Penetrable surfaces that are porous and allow rainfall and snowmelt to soak into the soil, gray infrastructure, such as culverts, gutters, storm sewers, conventional piped drainage, and Blue/Green infrastructure that protect, restore, or mimic the natural water cycle, all play a part in stormwater management.

Benefits of Stormwater Management

Effective stormwater management helps to prevent floods. Municipalities that use stormwater management have less chance of flooding. Areas with less vegetation and urban areas are more prone to experience flooding. Flooding will occur after heavy downpours if proper stormwater management techniques are not used. Flooding also leads to property damage and loss of life in cities without proper stormwater management. Stormwater management reduces the amount and speed of water flowing to the rivers and streams. Thus, it helps to stop excessive erosion.

When there is a lack of proper stormwater management, it can make rivers and streams flood. A flooded river can break its banks and the excess water spill to the nearby farms and destroy crops. Effective stormwater management makes maintaining aquatic life in lakes and streams possible. In the absence of proper stormwater management, there can be a drop in infiltration that can reduce groundwater recharge and soil replenishment. Therefore, stormwater management also has a part to play in maintaining the natural hydrologic cycle. It helps to replenish underground water, ensuring that people get adequate water for agricultural and household purposes. Stormwater management plays a crucial role in ensuring water quality. It means contaminants like pesticides, plastic, metals, oil, and grease from daily activities build upon surfaces. When stormwater management isn’t used water carries pollutants to lakes, streams, oceans, and groundwater.

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