3 Major Problems caused by Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff is the rainwater or melted snow rolling off of surfaces in your community, such as streets and rooftops, into storm drains, and then into the nearest river or lake. Stormwater runoff isn’t just unpleasant to look at - it can also be dangerous. When this water drains across the surface of the land without being absorbed into the ground, it picks up pollutants like bacteria and chemicals before ultimately reaching rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, where it can have harmful effects on fish and other aquatic life.
Impervious surfaces and impermeable soil cover contribute to runoff. These include urban growth near waterways, developmental clearing of land, and construction of roads, parking lots, and buildings.
This article will cover the three most common problems that can occur from stormwater runoff, including water pollution, soil erosion, and diseases, and how these issues can affect the various ecosystems.
1. Water pollution caused by stormwater runoff
The stormwater runoff that flows into storm drains, sewers, and waterways is loaded with harmful pollutants. If stormwater runoff goes untreated, it contributes towards non-point source pollution as there isn't a single point that can be identified as the cause. A variety of substances are found in stormwater runoff, including chemicals from vehicle exhausts, animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides, and household trash, causing problems for plants, animals, and people.
When this contaminated runoff flows into a body of water, toxins are released into the drinking water sources killing fish or other aquatic life. Even if your home is not near a large body of water, contaminated runoff could still travel into your groundwater supply, causing health problems. Another issue that needs awareness is that stormwater can heat up when flowing across watersheds and when this heated stormwater mixes with lakes, rivers, and estuaries, it can compromise the ecological systems in these water bodies. To help prevent stormwater pollution in your community, make sure you know what to do when it rains!
Design Everest’s team of experienced civil engineers can help you with a wide range of services in the pre-construction and later phases to ensure that stormwater runoff on your property is managed well.
2. Soil Erosion caused by stormwater runoff
Soil erosion isn't just an aesthetic issue--it can have major environmental consequences. Soil supports most of Earth's terrestrial life, so when it erodes faster than natural processes are replacing it, entire ecosystems are destroyed. Stormwater runoff caused by human development is one of the main culprits of soil erosion because soil particles are often trapped in silt and sediment, creating contaminated runoff that eventually makes its way to rivers and oceans.
If you’re in an area with heavier stormwater runoff during periods of excessive rain or snowmelt, your property might be prone to soil erosion. If you’re having serious problems with erosion on your land because of heavy stormwater runoff, contact a landscape designer to help reduce these issues before they worsen over time.
Erosion can also cause flooding, which can cause serious damages to property, buildings, and people. The sediment runoff may also smother plants and reduce land use for development or agriculture.
3. Diseases caused by stormwater runoff
It only takes one drop of fecal matter for water to get infected, and once people consume this infected water, symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear. These symptoms range from skin rashes and nausea to hepatitis A. If you live in an area prone to storms or floods, don’t let your guard down. Rain may bring beautiful weather, but it also brings its fair share of risks.
The bacteria from stormwater runoff can cause serious health problems, especially for children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. It may surprise you to know that bacteria can be found in your drinking water – it usually comes from non-point sources such as erosion or runoff.
Fertilizers found in the runoffs create algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of our lakes, killing fish by suffocation or creating an environment where they are more susceptible to disease or predation.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce stormwater runoff, such as using permeable paving materials and incorporating green infrastructure into building designs. You can also install a green roof (roof covered with vegetation) on your home; these strategies help prevent runoff from reaching lakes, rivers, or estuaries while also reducing pollution in your neighborhood.
In general, reducing impervious surfaces allows rain to soak into the ground more easily, generating less runoff, thus, keeping pollutants out of waterways and preventing erosion.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.