Those living in the Chesapeake Bay Water Shed are going to start hearing a LOT about stormwater over the next few months. Stormwater is water that comes from precipitation (rain, snow, sleet…) and does not soak into the ground. Stormwater runoff is the concern that is now being addressed in a proactive manner in our area. This surface runoff, which can flow directly into a stream or creek or through storm sewers and eventually becomes surface waters.
The two main concerns of stormwater are flooding and water pollution. We have found ways to battle the flooding issues over the years by building higher, channeling streams to avoid flooding in inhabited areas, and by building detention ponds. Now we are addressing the water pollution aspect of stormwater as we see the negative impacts on our fresh water resources. Runoff from impervious surfaces (roads, buildings, driveways, gravel parking lots) does not soak into the ground and collects chemicals such as oil, engine coolant, and degreasers which ends up in our surface water. Heavy rains on our front yards wash off the excess fertilizers and weed killers we use to keep the lawn green into our watershed. Agriculture uses heavy pesticides and fertilizers to amp up crop growth which also seeps into our streams. Erosion along stream edges and livestock being allowed into streams is also a major problem with our watershed issues. Of course industry has also played a part in the problem over the years as many businesses were developed along waterways to take advantage of the supply of fresh water.
Things that can be done in the building industry to protect our watershed include vegetative roofs, raingardens, cisterns, pervious pavement, and LID (low impact development). Charlottesville, Staunton, and Harrisonburg are MS4s. This requires the city to develop and implement and enforce a stormwater management program. This includes 6 minimum control measures:
1. public education and outreach
2. public participation and involvement
3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination
4. construction site stormwater runoff management
5. post construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment on prior developed land
6. pollution prevention for municipal operations