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Ways poor stormwater management can harm your town

After the initial coverage of a big storm, the ways poor stormwater management can harm your town don’t get much attention. But ongoing problems are real.

A multitude of factors contribute to a community’s overall health and well-being. Among these, stormwater management is one that many often overlook, at least until floods strike. The ways poor stormwater management can harm your town range from flash flooding to public health emergencies and environmental damage. Continue reading to learn more.

Runoff That Leads to Flooding

Flooding is one of the most immediately visible effects of inadequate stormwater management. Cities and towns have infrastructure designed to channel and control storm runoff from impermeable surfaces like roads, parking lots, and roofs. Among these are storm sewers, retaining ponds, roadside ditches, and culverts designed to carry water under roads and bridges without disrupting travel.

But culverts can fail, becoming quickly overwhelmed during heavy rainfalls or rapid snowmelt, when no one properly maintains them, leading to uncontrolled water flow that can flood homes, businesses, and public spaces. This flooding disrupts daily life and can also cause significant property damage. However, with proper maintenance, culverts can effectively channel stormwater and significantly reduce the risk of flooding.

Public Health Emergencies

Harmful pollutants can seep into the water supply when stormwater systems fail to properly capture and treat runoff. This runoff can lead to health issues such as gastrointestinal illnesses and skin infections. Furthermore, pools of stagnant water created by inefficient stormwater systems can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of insect-borne diseases in the community. Adequate stormwater management is, therefore, a critical component in preventing public health emergencies.

Environmental Damage and Pollution

Stormwater can pick up a variety of pollutants as it flows over surfaces, including chemicals, oils, and trash. This polluted runoff can make its way into local waterways without proper management, damaging aquatic habitats and harming wildlife. Additionally, excessive runoff can cause soil erosion, which can lead to loss of vegetation and destabilization of landscapes.

Major and Ongoing Stormwater and Runoff Failures

Stormwater and water runoff management failures persist in many areas of the United States. New York City’s combined sewer system is one such example. During heavy rainfall or snowmelt, the system often gets overwhelmed, causing it to dump raw sewage into local waterways. The raw sewage then pollutes the water and poses a significant public health risk.

Pollution in Puget Sound is another consequence of inadequate stormwater management in the Pacific Northwest. The runoff from urban areas carries a myriad of pollutants into the Sound, harming its delicate ecosystem. Similarly, the San Francisco and Chesapeake Bay regions have also been victims of pollution due to ineffective water runoff control.

The mighty Mississippi River also illustrates how pollutants can travel vast distances due to ineffective stormwater and runoff management. Runoff from farms and urban areas along the river carries nitrates and phosphates into the river. These pollutants eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico, creating a “dead zone” where oxygen levels are so low that most marine life cannot survive.

Proper stormwater management practices can help ensure a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable community across the nation and beyond. Understanding the potential ways poor stormwater management can harm your town is the first step in advocating for and implementing better practices.

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Ways poor stormwater management can harm your town

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