All of us remember the rash of terrible weather in 2017, particularly the widespread problems resulting from hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma. We don’t live in hurricane territory, but we have felt their effects, usually as excessive rainfall. While it isn’t economically feasible to design for such unusual storms, often referred to as 100 or 500 year storms, we can benefit from understanding storm water, its impacts, and how we can help.
In an ideal world, rain water and snowmelt would all be absorbed into the soil where the moisture can be used by growing plants. However, as we have noticed just in the last few weeks, there are times when the ground is saturated which results in the excess moisture running across the surface of the land and into a storm sewer, if you live in an urban area, or into a road ditch, if you live in the country. In either case, slowing down the surface runoff, spreading it out over a larger surface area, and giving it time to soak in helps reduce surface runoff. Surface runoff can pick up debris, chemicals, bacteria, eroded soil, and other pollutants, carrying them into streams, rivers, lakes, or wetlands.
Here are some storm water terms:
• Impervious surface. A nonporous surface that forces rainfall and snowmelt to flow across it. Examples are roofs, paved driveways and parking lots, and sidewalks.
• Pervious surface. A porous surface that allows rainfall and snowmelt to soak into the soil. Lawns and other grassed areas, crop fields, agricultural areas such as orchards, pastures, and woodlands are the most common pervious surfaces for our area. Permeable pavers and pavement can be used instead of traditional asphalt and concrete.
• Gray infrastructure. The traditional system of culverts, gutters, storm sewers, conventional piped drainage, and other engineered collections that deliver storm water into nearby water bodies.
• Blue/Green infrastructure. Best management practices that protect, restore, or mimic the natural water cycle. Examples are rain gardens, buffer strips, rain barrels, bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavements, planter boxes, ponds, wetlands, and trees. There are also a host of agricultural best management practices such as no-till, cover crops, and grass waterways, just to name a few.
Storm water management is most effective when both quantity and quality of the water are considered. Quantity management involves detaining storm water to prevent or minimize flooding of homes, businesses, and roadways. Quality management also detains storm water, but the main purpose is to allow for the removal of pollutants through settling and/or biological processes.
How can you help? Educate yourself about your property. Where does the rain water and snow melt flow when they aren’t absorbed into the ground? Are there best management practices you can implement to help reduce surface runoff and/or ensure the runoff is as clean as it can be when it leaves your property? Is there an issue with which you need help? Flooding, ponding, and erosion are common reasons why people call us at the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. If you need assistance with storm water concerns and in “slowing it down, spreading it out, or soaking it in,” please call us at 740-368-1921.
We also encourage you to visit our website at www.delawareswcd.org. It is time for our annual tree and shrub packet sale so check out the website for species and prices.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.