“Stormwater Runoff” originates due to impervious surfaces, such as roofs, sidewalks, driveways, and streets.
So- what is runoff?
Runoff is any stormwater that can’t infiltrate the soil. This water & snowmelt from our roofs, streets, and pavement creates a flowing river. The river picks up anything it can carry as it flows: yard chemicals, vehicle chemicals, pet waste, trash, soil and debris. The runoff river carries these things into our local streams and lakes before flowing out to the Platte River and beyond. Check out the the Center for Watershed Protection for more information.
Just one teaspoon of salt in five gallons of water creates a concentration toxic to some aquatic life and increases the corrosivness of water.
Road salts and most deicers contain chloride. When the snow and ice melt, the salty runoff flows down the storm drains to the North Platte River. Chloride is virtually impossible to remove from a waterbody.
Avoid chloride pollution with these tips:
– Shovel early and often to prevent snow compaction and ice formation.
– Scrape ice with an ice scraper or ice chisel.
– Salt or de-ice as a last resort. Salt or de-ice ONLY if pavement temperature is warm enough for application to be effective. Otherwise, lightly sprinkle sand for traction.
– Sweep residue after the melt to prevent residual salt, de-icer, or sand from washing into storm drains.
Photo © Ivan Kopylov
Continued melting means flowing snow melt and runoff. Check street gutters and storm drains near your home to make sure they’re clear of debris and functioning properly.
Clogged storm drains can cause neighborhood flooding, icy back up and nutrient overload as debris decays in the drains.Removing leaves, one of the largest urban sources of phosphorus pollution, from street gutters and drains can reduce the amount of phosphorus in urban runoff by 80% (USGS 2016).
Capture and reuse rain runoff to supplement regular watering and reduce demand on the public water system with these ideas.
1. Gently mound dirt along a plant’s dripline to hold and infiltrate runoff.
2. Re-use household wastewater from dehumidifiers or air conditioning condensers for irrigation.
3. Install a rain barrel or cistern. Rain barrels can store the water until the weather turns dry and is needed.
4. Plant a rain garden – the basin will hold runoff while providing the yard with color and pollinator habitat.
Photo via gilintx via Flickr CC
Earth’s water cycle constantly refreshes our water supply as it travels through (the basic) phases of precipitation, evaporation, and condensation. We depend on the water cycle to bring us fresh, clean water.
Our water can only be as clean as it’s filters. Damage of soil, air, or ground surfaces also damages the filtration or renewal of water.
Greenhouse gases affects the amount, distribution, timing, and quality of available water which affects our activities like recreation (fishing, hunting, water recreation), farming, manufacturing.
Contaminants left on the surface or in the soil contaminate groundwater as it soaks through the soil, requiring additional filtration for humans to drink.
Every person can help prevent pollution, which helps keep the water cycle flowing smoothly and our water clean.
Recent research suggests rain harvesting may have provided the 800 Roman soliders manning Hadrian’s Fort with 10 liters (2.62 gallons) of drinking water per per capita per day during their deployment.
Evidence at Hadrian’s Fort, a strategic Roman outpost along Hadrian’s Wall in northern England, indicates building rooftops were constructed to capture rainfall. The runoff collected in stone-lined tanks, two to six tanks per key building, capable of holding 2 cubic meters (about 528 gallons) of water each.
It’s an amazing feat of foresight, considering Hadrian’s Fort has no internal springs or wells, access to springs or waterways in the region, and an aqueduct supply would have been extremely impractical.
Photo by David Ross
Hadrian’s Wall at Steel Rigg
Twice Brewed, Northumberland, England
Stormwater is not treated before it flows into the North Platte River, so contaminants that enter the storm sewer system can also contaminate the river.
According to regulation, anything other than rain or snowmelt in the storm sewer is an illicit discharge. However, clean water discharges to the gutter – like pumped groundwater, air conditioning condensation, or irrigation water/lawn watering – are typically excused.
If you see or find evidence of substances other than rain or snowmelt in the gutter or near a storm drain please call the stormwater department 630-8011. If the spill is over 25 gallons or you know the substance is hazardous, please call 911.
Capetown’s crisis is in the spotlight now, but other metropolitan areas could soon follow:
Trees play a critical role in managing our city’s stormwater runoff. Enjoy this interactive poster from the Arbor Day Foundation highlighting the role trees play in urban stormwater management.