Managing storm water is important

Brad RossContributing Columnist

Rain, rain, rain … we certainly have been inundated with rain. Some of us have been deluged with three inches of rain in just a few hours, some of us more than once in a just a few days! When long-term trends occur in nature, most species adapt. I’m beginning to form webs between my toes!

Ideally, rain water soaks into the ground amongst the soil particles available for plants to use. With heavy rains the soil becomes saturated and unable to absorb more water. This is why managing storm water is important – to prevent flooding, prevent erosion, maintain safe roads, reduce water pollution and reduce habitat for mosquitoes.

Storm water is managed differently in an urban/suburban setting, as compared to the rural areas. In rural areas, the roads are typically crowned to be slightly higher in the center so that rain water is shed into ditches, usually located on both sides of the road. These ditches carry runoff water from roads, rural residences and farm fields to the nearest stream, river, lake or wetland, often through a series of road culverts. The storm water moving over the ground to the ditch has the opportunity to pick up pollutants from failing home sewage treatment systems, litter, animal manures (wild and domestic, farm animals and house pets), oil and fuel from roads and driveways, and soil amendments for growing crops, lawns and gardens.

Storm water in urban and suburban areas is managed through a series of surface inlets and pipes, and the water moves mostly underground, sight unseen. The roads are crowned so that water is shed towards the curb, which then guides the water to a surface inlet. These grates along streets and in parking lots are a direct conduit to the storm sewer system. The end result is the same – the storm sewer eventually drains to a stream, river, lake or wetland, and all of the same pollutants have the potential for degrading our surface waters.

In Delaware County, storm water that doesn’t infiltrate into the soil eventually flows over the ground into the Scioto River. Some drains directly into the Scioto River while the rest reaches the Scioto through the Olentangy River, Alum Creek or Upper Big Walnut Creek. All four of these systems can be used for recreation and drinking water through Hoover Reservoir, Alum Creek Reservoir, Delaware Reservoir and O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.

We can’t control the weather but we can protect against its occasional negative impacts. Here are a few suggestions:

• Keep it covered! Bare ground (soil) is highly susceptible to erosion. Cover crops, grass and trees help hold soil in place.

• Keep it open! Storm grates and culverts sometimes get blocked by debris. Such blockage can cause upstream flooding so cleaning is critical to an efficient system.

• Every little bit helps! Rain barrels and rain gardens help slow down runoff and allow for infiltration. They are low cost and aesthetically pleasing. Mosquitoes like standing water for breeding habitat and some species can grow from egg to adult in as little as four days. Clean up any buckets, troughs and tires, anything that can collect water and entice mosquitoes.

• Tune it up! Efficiently operating vehicles not only save on fuel but prevent leakage of fluids onto the ground and washing into streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

More great information on stormwater management can be found on the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District’s website at Click on “NPDES Stormwater Management” to learn more.

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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