Simply put, stormwater is the additional water contributing to existing surface water features such as lakes, streams, and wetlands from rainfall or snowmelt. Stormwater typically holds a very negative stigma because people associate stormwater with pollution and runoff. Most of the time, this stigma holds true, but only because most existing stormwater systems and proper education have not caught up to the rate of change on our landscape.
Currently Washington County is in the process of rapid urbanization. The county's population is expected to increase by 42% by 2020. With this "urban sprawl," development occurs, which changes how the landscape previously functioned in its use and transport of water. Pre-development conditions may have had very little water transported off-site, but the change to that landscape now has the water concentrated and moved to a new location to alleviate flooding and other water related problems. Rooftops, driveways, parking lots, etc. that were previously open meadows or white oak and sugar maple forests, don't allow for water to naturally find its way back into the ground. In Washington County we depend on groundwater to supply 100% of our drinking water. Water must find its way back into the ground in order to properly supply our current water needs. When we change how our landscape functions at moving and infiltrating water, we may lose the ability to recharge our water supply as well as keeping the water pollutant free.
As a function of change in our landscape to how water is transported, as well as the rate and volume of water transported, the ability for additional pollutants to be introduced to our waters is much higher. Parking lots have chemicals such as anti-freeze and petroleum products that get washed off and moved into areas where water is designed to infiltrate. Rooftops that exist where a prairie once did no longer allow water to soak into the ground, and instead drain to downspouts and off onto lawns, sidewalks, and driveways. These impervious areas will pick up more and more pollutants until they settle out where the water finally collects.
It is everyone's responsibility to take matters into their own hands as to how they can change their property to accommodate these changes in their landscape. Many conservation practices are available to choose from and use, it's simply a matter of initiation. The Washington Conservation District has staff well versed in storm water and conservation-minded practices and are able to help. Contact our office with questions related to your own stormwater story to take the first step in preserving our water resources.