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). When stormwater is absorbed into the soil, it is filtered and ultimately replenishes aquifers or flows into streams and rivers. However, 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, thus carrying them into streams, rivers, lakes, or wetlands.
Rainwater runoff is produced by rainwater and melted snow that flows over the ground and impervious surfaces. These impervious surfaces include roofs, sidewalks, streets, parking lots, and driveways, which can threaten drinking water stored in surface reservoirs. Runoff rainwater absorbs pollutants like trash, chemicals, and oils, which can harm our lakes, rivers, streams, and coastal waters. Additionally, chemicals and minerals such as nitrogen and phosphorus found in animal manure, fertilizers, and faulty septic tank systems are major sources of contamination in nearby water bodies. Too many of these toxins will greatly reduce water quality in a process called eutrophication.
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, turbidity (or muddiness), storm and sanitary sewer system overflow, and infrastructure damage. Some of these include:
- Downstream flooding
- River bank erosion
- Increased turbidity due to erosion (mud caused by agitated sediments)
- Habitat destruction
- Rainwater and sanitation
- Combined sewer system overflow
- Infrastructure damage
- Contaminated streams, rivers, and coastal waters
Stormwater programs aim to regulate water discharges from three potential sources: industrial activities, municipal separate storm sewer systems, and construction activities. Operators of these sources might be required to obtain a permit before they can discharge stormwater. This permitting mechanism is designed to prevent stormwater runoff from washing harmful pollutants into local surface waters. Traditional stormwater management approaches that rely on peak flow storage have generally not targeted pollutant reduction and can exacerbate problems associated with changes in hydrology and hydraulics.
When is a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) or stormwater management plan (SWMP) required?
SWMP is required in any of the following situations:
- Development or redevelopment activities cause 1 acre or more of land to interfere with activities.
- Development or redevelopment activities result in a cumulative area of 1 acre or more for all land disturbance activities on the property within 3 years.
- Development or redevelopment activities result in an increase of 0.5 acres or more in impervious areas.
Benefits of Stormwater Management Planning
Redesigning stormwater and “green infrastructure” to capture and reuse stormwater to maintain or restore natural hydrologies can result in many benefits. Collecting stormwater and removing pollutants is the primary purpose of stormwater management. Gray infrastructure, such as culverts, gutters, and storm sewers are considered old and conventional drainage methods, but blue/green infrastructure protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle, and can play an important part in stormwater management.
What can you do in your community?
Your daily activities on land can and do have an impact on your water quality! From drinking water to the sea water at your favorite beach, you can take different simple measures to protect this precious natural resource.
- Start by familiarizing yourself with your local water cycle.
- Next, determine the watershed you live in to understand which water bodies are affected by your land use activities.
- Build a rain garden or rain barrel on your property.
- Explore these links provided by the EPA to better improve individual land use for green infrastructure.
Cypress provides coordinated technical assistance in our licensed communities to develop long-term stormwater plans, with an extensive line of civil and environmental engineering services and an experienced team of environmental consulting professionals who can ensure these services are executed in your local area.
Contact us to learn more about stormwater management services and all of our other services.
Cypress Environment & Infrastructure (Cypress), LLC, is a small, woman-owned business specializing in engineering, planning, and environmental science from our offices in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Maryland. We provide a range of engineering, planning and environmental consulting services including consulting, construction administration, and construction contracting and are a licensed engineering firm in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia.
Cypress focuses on creating better projects where the built environment meets the natural environment. We stay abreast of current research as well as innovations in products, materials, and techniques to provide the most cost-effective methods to achieve an individual client’s objectives while planning and building projects and developments that work with the environment.