We all live in a watershed, but…. WHAT IS A WATERSHED?
What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the runoff that comes from parking lots and rooftops and flows into our storm drains and streams carrying silt, debris, fertilizer and other pollutants with it. Since stormwater runoff is untreated, pollutants end up in our lakes and other water resources. In addition to adding pollutants to stormwater, urban development increases the amount and velocity of runoff that occurs, so that downstream properties are flooded, channels and streams become eroded over time, and natural beauty and habitat are lost.
In the past, urban drainage systems were developed to address only one concern—to carry runoff from a major storm safely through the area being developed. Little attention was given to downstream impacts on flooding, water quality or maintenance.
Stormwater management is a new approach that integrates all aspects of stormwater runoff to protect the environment and provide the highest quality of life for current and future generations.
Stormwater is managed by integrating it into all phases of development, beginning with conceptual layout and grading and continuing through provisions for long-term maintenance; and by retaining natural features and adding special controls that filter out pollutants and limit changes in runoff that cause downstream erosion and flooding.
Stormwater management is also a new approach for developing capital improvement programs to address existing stormwater problems in the community. Additional land may be acquired to create a more natural condition rather than constructing a larger storm drain or channel; detention ponds may be developed that hold back a portion of runoff so that flood levels are reduced downstream; and the design of the facility is accomplished in a manner that reduces pollution and erosion.
Stormwater management also affects the operation and maintenance of the drainage system. The stormwater system must be carefully inventoried and condition assessments must be made on a regular basis; special access ramps and other minor changes to the system must be done to allow regular maintenance of control features that are sensitive to blockage and erosion; failures must be identified promptly and repaired while they are relatively simple to fix; and vegetation must be managed in an effective manner so that pollutants are filtered out and channel banks are not eroded.
A major part of an effective stormwater management program is monitoring streams and regulating discharges into streams to identify any pollution or water quality issues.
Finally, the public must be an active partner in stormwater management. Public outreach and education programs are essential to gain support for city programs and assistance in pollution prevention and control.
Ten Things You Can Do to Make a Difference in A Watershed
- Conserve water every day. Take shorter showers, fix leaks & turn off the water when not in use.
- Don’t pour toxic household chemicals down the drain; take them to a hazardous waste center.
- Use hardy plants that require little or no watering, fertilizers or pesticides in your yard.
- Do not over apply fertilizers. Consider using organic or slow release fertilizers instead.
- Recycle yard waste in a compost pile & use a mulching mower.
- Use surfaces like wood, brick or gravel for decks & walkways; allows rain to soak in & not run off.
- Never pour used oil or antifreeze into the storm drain or the street.
- Pick up after your dog, and dispose of the waste in the toilet or the trash.
- Drive less—walk or bike; many pollutants in our waters come from car exhaust and car leaks.
- Adopt your watershed – The actions of the people who live in a watershed affect the overall health of the watershed. That’s why the EPA is encouraging citizens and organizations to participate in keeping their watersheds clean by adopting a watershed or by volunteering. If you live in the Columbia area, consider participating in the Rocky Branch, Smith Branch or Gills Creek Watershed Alliances!