Understand the impact of stormwater and your part in minimizing the damage.

This story was written by the Our Gem Collaborative team for the CDA Press on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Read the original article.

When it rains or when snow melts, where does the water go? In a natural landscape, water is quickly absorbed into the soil, but in urban and developed areas with impervious surfaces, water cannot soak into the ground and instead flows above ground as stormwater runoff. The water that runs through your yard, down your driveway or along your sidewalks flows directly into our rivers and lakes completely untreated along with all pet waste, fertilizers, litter and other pollutants it picks up on the way. However, there are some simple ways you can minimize stormwater in our communities and help keep our water clean.

Traditionally, the objective of stormwater management has been to divert runoff as quickly as possible to prevent flooding. As a result, most cities have a series of storm drains and catch basins to transport runoff from streets and parking lots. Curbside stormwater grates may drain into a drywell, a porous-walled chamber that allows water to slowly soak into the ground, or divert stormwater directly to streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. Polluted stormwater negatively affects fish, wildlife, recreation and human health. Modern practices encourage reducing the amount of stormwater reaching our lakes and rivers by allowing water to slow down and filter into the ground. Infiltration basins called swales achieve this by trapping water in shallow channels with gently sloping sides. Swales are often grassy but can also be filled with wetland plants or rocks. Swales are designed to purge water slowly into the ground, so it is not uncommon to see standing water after a big rainstorm.

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