Stormwater Runoff

When planning a city or new development project, it is crucial to build an adequate infrastructure that supports inevitable environmental changes. Most people think about preserving wildlife and forests when they think about environmental impacts, but there are also significant impacts that can arise from the way that the flow of rainwater is altered from its natural path. 

Stormwater runoff is one of the most important considerations that engineers have to factor into their plans to minimize erosion and maintain sanitary conditions. Proper stormwater runoff management can help to preserve the value of new structures while avoiding the need for expensive retrofitting.

What Is Stormwater Runoff?

The definition of stormwater runoff is pretty straightforward: stormwater runoff is water that lands on dry land during a rainstorm. You have probably noticed stormwater without realizing it when large puddles accumulate on the edge of roads near curbs and in ditches. 

Thankfully, modern cities are usually planned in a way where stormwater is managed well enough that only urban planners ever have to worry about it. When a project is planned correctly, stormwater should hardly even be visible on the surface unless there is an unusually serious storm.

Cities normally take care of stormwater by having it directed into sewers that are designed to capture runoff water. Liquids always flow through the path of least resistance, so engineers can easily calculate the direction that water will flow on the surface of a structure. 

Proper stormwater systems will quickly remove water from sensitive areas to prevent flooding. Even when water cannot be moved away from basements and other underground structures, sump pumps can be used to mechanically move water from an area of concern.

Common Stormwater Runoff Problems

The challenge with stormwater is that it is prohibitively expensive to use sump pumps to move water across a development project. Instead, the contours of the land have to be used to move surface runoff into the right places with the help of gravity. Unfortunately, gravity-based systems can fail when they are not designed properly.

One of the most significant problems with stormwater is when it accumulates in areas without adequate drainage. Engineers can sometimes make mistakes that lead to drainage pipes being too small, and this will lead to what appears to be a small lake forming every time there is a storm. Significant accumulation of groundwater runoff can lead to problems with mosquitoes or even the flooding of nearby structures when significant storms occur.

Sanitation is also a serious problem with stormwater. Many sewage systems send both wastewater and runoff through the same pipes. Consequently, stormwater is usually classified as dangerous waste because it contains all of the hazardous materials that people flush down their toilets or dump down their drains. 

Stormwater runoff pollutants can damage an entire ecosystem when animals become poisoned from raw sewage. In extreme cases, small children and domestic animals can become sick after exposure to these contaminants.

Why Is Stormwater Runoff a Problem?

In the natural environment, stormwater is not usually a problem unless the flood of the century hits. The reason for this is that natural vegetation can absorb rainwater on several levels. 

First, trees absorb a significant amount of water in their leaves. You may have noticed how trees continue to drip water for hours after a storm, and this is because they can literally absorb tons of water before reaching their saturation point. Second, vegetation at the surface level, such as small trees, wild grass, and fallen leaves, can absorb additional water while preventing it from freely flowing across surfaces. Finally, water is naturally absorbed into topsoil, roots, and underground materials that are found only in the natural environment.

In environments made artificially by man, on the other hand, there is little-to-no vegetation to absorb water that falls after a rainstorm. More importantly, the water can flow easily across parking lots and even low-cut fields. In the event of even a small rainstorm, therefore, development projects that are designed poorly can be highly susceptible to flash floods.

Moreover, water can easily accumulate without natural impediments. Planners, thus, have to work hard to ensure that the problems presented by stormwater are mitigated as much as possible at every touchpoint.

What Is Stormwater Management?

Stormwater management is the process of ensuring that wastewater is properly drained under both ordinary conditions and in times of extreme flooding.

Most stormwater management programs center around properly contouring land, installing adequate drainage systems, and using artificial vegetation. Almost everything that is done to further stormwater management happens at the design level. Large projects will usually employ skilled engineers who specialize in ensuring that applicable regulations are followed and that the unique requirements of developers are met.

However, some aspects of wastewater management can also be done after a project is completed to fine-tune the finished design. For instance, there are many ways of reducing stormwater runoff by installing shrubs or other vegetation in areas where high levels of runoff unexpectedly accumulate.

Getting the Right Stormwater Monitoring System

One of the most effective ways to manage stormwater is to use a modern stormwater monitoring system. Leading providers of stormwater runoff solutions like High Tide Technologies can implement innovative systems that monitor and control rainwater to yield enhanced results.

Get in touch with High Tide Technologies to learn more about how a cloud-based SCADA system can improve the process of collecting and treating stormwater runoff today.