Stormwater runoff is melting snow or rain that streams over the ground.
In a natural environment, plants and soil absorb rainwater. However, in the urban world we live in today, the concrete jungles we have built alter our hydrological cycles and watersheds. Instead of the water being absorbed by plants and soil naturally, it washes over the impervious surfaces like streets, sidewalks, and driveways, creating stormwater runoff.
What Are the Consequences of Stormwater Runoff?
Stormwater runoff picks up chemicals, dirt, debris and other types of pollutants that it comes into contact with. It then flows into a storm sewer system or directly into a stream, river, lake, wetland or coastal water.
Stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, animals, fish, and even human beings. If not managed properly, it leads to:
- the deposit of oil, dirt, chemicals and other pollutants into the different types of surface water
- these substances can cloud the water bodies, making it hard – if not impossible – for aquatic life to grow
- bacteria and other harmful pathogens may be washed into swimming areas that pose health hazards and may lead to beach closures
- polluted stormwater often affects the quality of drinking water from various sources, which in turn may affect our health and increases water treatment costs
- it may cause erosion and in severe cases flooding
- it can cause blockages, reducing the capacity of sewer pipes to carry sanitary sewage, creating backups into basements and streets
What Are Potential Solutions?
Now that you know and understand the consequences of stormwater runoff, here are a few things we can do about it. The steps will help to reduce stormwater runoff pollution as well as the runoff itself.
Grow Rain Gardens
A rain garden is a shallow dish-like hollow in the ground that is planted with native plants and flowers. These types of gardens help to provide natural places where rainwater collects and soaks into the ground while still looking nice in your yard. Rain from paved areas and rooftops can be diverted into these gardens to soak up and infiltrate into the ground rather than being left to flow into storm drains. In addition, rain gardens also help too
- protect streams and rivers
- reduce the risk of home flooding
- reduce mosquito breeding by eliminating standing water
Vegetated Filter Strips
Vegetated filter strips are areas where native plants or grass are grown along roadways or streams. These areas trap the pollutants that stormwater runoffs pick up along the way as it flows across streets and driveways. This helps reduce the number of stormwater runoff pollutants that reach surface waters. These strips also help to slow down runoffs, promote infiltration and decreasing downstream erosion and flooding.
Preserve Trees and Plant Some More
The root systems of trees effectively absorb water over a large area. Also, the canopy of trees helps to slow the fall of rain, allowing the ground to absorb larger amounts of water. Why not plant some trees that absorb large amounts of water in your area?
Collect Rain Water in Barrels
Instead of letting rainwater pour down from your roof, consider collecting it in mosquito-proof rain barrels. You can later use the water for your lawn or garden area.
Adopt Eco-Friendly Practices
- Pick up after your pet: Pet waste that is left on sidewalks, yards, trails or streets can easily be washed into streams and area creeks. This waste adds harmful bacteria to our water making it unsafe to play or swim in. Hence, make sure to pick your pet’s waste and dispose of by throwing it in a trash can or flushing it down the toilet.
- Do not dump anything down storm drains: Most people mistake storm drains as being part of the sanitary sewer system that flows to wastewater treatment plans. Truth is, storm drains are directed to local streams, lakes, wetlands, and rivers. Hence, do not throw anything into them.
- Use fertilizer and pesticides sparingly: Always follow the instructions on the products you use and use them sparingly.
- Instead of using a hose, sweep your sidewalks and driveways: This will prevent pollutants being washed into the drain.