What is Stormwater?
When rain or snow falls it either soaks into the ground, evaporates, or flows over the surface of the land. Overland flow is called runoff, or stormwater, and is the major source in wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes and water-supply reservoirs.
As stormwater flows over land, it causes some of the materials in its path to come along for the ride. Vegetative surfaces can slow down the flow of water, filter out sediments, and break down or trap pollutants in the root zone of the plants. In contrast, buildings, roads, parking areas and exposed bedrock do not allow water to soak in. Since water is not soaking in, the amount and speed of the stormwater runoff increases, potentially causing flooding, hydroplaning or sediment runoff concerns.
Stormwater becomes a transportation system for pollutants, such as:
- Eroded soil from construction sites
- Cigarette butts and other litter from streets and parking lots
- Leaked antifreeze and oil
- fertilizers and pesticides from turf and yards
- grit or salt from de-icing operations on roads and parking areas
These items can be deposited untreated into our waterways. This stormwater could contain and transport pollutants such as:
- petroleum products
- coliform bacteria
Polluted stormwater runoff that discharges in urbanized areas cause serious water-quality problems. Polluted runoff to waterbodies can affect aquatic plant and animal life in streams and lakes, reduce recreational activities such as boating and swimming, and increase flooding conditions.
Stormwater drainage systems collect runoff and channel it away from roadways and structures to a discharge point, preventing flooding and protecting property in developed areas. Stormwater drainage systems consist of:
- storm drains
and do not treat the stormwater which would allow sediments to precipitate out, or slow down the water. Most of these drainage systems discharge into streams, rivers and lakes.
Stormwater BMP Manual
The Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual describes practices and principles that are aesthetically pleasing and space efficient, yet protect water quality and improve wildlife habitat. This manual is a tool to assist developers, engineers, municipal officials, conservation district personnel and others involved with the planning, design, review and approval of building development projects.
Homeowners Can Make a Difference!
Practical tips to reduce stormwater pollution:
- Keep your nearest storm drain clear of debris and litter
- Never dump anything down a storm drain
- Use fertilizers sparingly
- Use pesticides only when necessary
- Do not blow grass clippings or leaves into the street
- Sweep up yard debris rather than hosing down paved areas
- Compost or recycle yard waste
- Pick up pet waste and dispose of properly
- Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on an unpaved area
- Service your car regularly to prevent leaks onto paved areas
- Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste at designated collection locations
- Produce less waste – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Purchase and use nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled or recyclable products whenever possible
- Have your septic tank pumped and system inspected at least every three years
For more information on these and other Healthy Household Habits, visit another great resource Reduce Your Stormwater!
Homeowner Stormwater Practices
Two options can be easily incorporated into new or existing homes that can make a difference in the stormwater leaving a home site.
Rain Barrels are a quick and easy means to reduce stormwater by collecting roof runoff and storing it for later (non-potable) use around the home like watering and cleaning.
are incorporated into landscaping for stormwater retention and to encourage groundwater recharge. They beautify your lawn, propagate native plant species and encourage birds and wildlife.
To learn more about stormwater on your property and what you can do to reduce run-off check out the Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater booklet and these additional resources: http://www.lowimpactdevelopment.org/raingarden_design/download.htm and http://ddoe.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddoe/publication/attachments/RaingardenHow2HomeownerUWExtension.pdf