The Vital Role of Stormwater Management

stormwater on asphalt road that needs stormwater management

When residents of Ellicott City, Maryland woke up on July 30, 2016, they were expecting a typical rainy day. But by that evening, they knew it was anything but. Rain began to fall at 6:45, and by 8:01, there were already reports of flooding. By 8:30, people were being swept away by rushing water, and homes and businesses were being destroyed. A state of emergency was issued soon after. Despite this catastrophe, the city endured and rebuilt. Then, on May 27, 2018, another flood struck. Through hard work and a strong community, Ellicott City is thriving today, but these two disasters highlight the importance of something every city and town should prioritize: Stormwater management

What is Stormwater Management?

This process is something that we see everyday but rarely think about. It’s a whole system of processes and structures that control and treat runoff. The most common examples of it are storm drains, but think of all the retention ponds, rain gardens, and basins that are part of infrastructure. These are all small parts of a whole that could save an urban environment. Conversely, a lack of these things could spell doom.

Geography plays a huge role in this process, as well. What might be essential management systems for one town may not be necessary for another, depending on location, terrain, weather patterns, and other natural factors.

Protecting the Environment

Believe it or not, a good stormwater management plan is about more than just protecting man made locations. It can be utilized to safeguard mother nature, as well! Take our natural waterways, for example. A big enough storm could cause flooding that disrupts these water courses or permeates in a focused spot so strongly that it threatens the local ecosystem. A good management system can store excess water during a storm and release it gradually. Spreading out the release of this water over time, minimizing flood damage to natural habitats and property alike.

Of course, stormwater can sweep away countless things in its path, including materials that could harm the environment. Think of the chemicals and oils that cover our roads as a result of vehicle exhaust. We may have no way to prevent water from carrying it away during a storm, but we can control where it goes and ensure its final destination is somewhere it can do no harm.

Protecting Public Safety

As we mentioned just above, runoff from storms can displace chemicals that are harmful for the environment. If they’re harmful to the environment, they’re likely harmful to people. Unchecked, stormwater can potentially infect drinking water supplies or collect in places that could cause health problems for the people nearby.

A more immediate concern for public safety is the sheer force of rushing water in the midst of a storm. If flooding gets severe enough, as was the case in Ellicot City, lives are at risk. People could get swept away in the current or become trapped or otherwise injured by debris. It’s a terrifying possibility that should be taken into account when planning any new township or updating infrastructure.

Maintaining Infrastructure

Speaking of infrastructure, stormwater management plays a major role in its upkeep. We’ve already discussed how flooding can be a threat to lives, but it also poses significant danger to roads, buildings, and other utilities. By implementing stormwater ponds, flood control channels, and retention basins, municipalities can mitigate the events that would otherwise pose a threat to these crucial systems.

Systems need to be in place to catch pollutants, debris, and sediment before they reach drainage systems. Blockages are a common root cause of flooding, so preventing them is a must.

Of course, without proper maintenance, even drainage systems and other irrigation devices could fail. Like the houseplant you keep on your windowsill, you have to show it some TLC in order for it to thrive. Regular inspections and repairs aren’t optional. They’re vital. Luckily, we have a good recommendation for professionals in that area!

Stormwater Management Techniques

We’ve touched on a few common techniques, but haven’t really explained them until now. So what are a few examples? Let’s start with retention basins. These are commonly used because they can be applied almost anywhere. They store runoff permanently, which offers the benefit of groundwater recharge and habitat creation!

Vegetated buffers are one of our personal favorite methods, because we’re using nature as the management system. They’re essentially stretches of land with vegetation that intercepts runoff before it reaches large bodies of water. The added benefit here is they provide habitats for wildlife and improve water quality.

As we said before, geography as well as a city’s design are big factors in the best techniques to employ for managing runoff. You wouldn’t employ a vegetated buffer if there was no risk of runoff reaching rivers or seas. In the case of Ellicott City, the downhill main street that saw significant flooding required a unique solution involving a tunnel plan for the runoff. 

Your Go-To Professionals

Water is one of our greatest resources, but it can also be a critical danger when we hear the rumble of thunder. With a good stormwater management system in place, this danger can be mitigated or eliminated entirely. Retention ponds, buffers, permeable pavement, and several other solutions can work together to make sure we can weather every storm.

If you want a rock solid stormwater management plan, get in touch with ACE. We’re not about going with the flow. We’re about controlling it.