Homeowners Can Reduce Stormwater Runoff From Their Property
Photo via NDS
Homeowners to look for ways to reduce stormwater runoff from their property to help reduce or eliminate the amount of pollutants and contaminants that run off properties during rain storms into local waterways, watersheds and oceans.
As rainwater flows off of our streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, it picks up all kinds of pollutants like pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, oil, and automotive fluids. If it does not evaporate or soak into the ground or if untreated or poorly treated, the contaminated runoff adversely affects water quality and aquatic life in local streams, the rivers into which they feed, and ultimately the oceans.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80 percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land. In the U.S., stormwater runoff is a big problem and, in many areas, it is the only source of water pollution that is growing. As more houses, roads, and shopping centers are built, more of this polluted runoff is making its way through gutters and storm drains to the nearest waterway.
“For most people, a good first step to reducing stormwater runoff starts in their own backyards,” said Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer and technical services manager at NDS. a manufacturer of drainage and stormwater management products.
He is also known as “Dr. Drainage” in NDS’s YouTube instructional video series about how to properly use and install stormwater management and drainage products. “At NDS, we seek to reduce the impact of the built environment on the essential water resources that sustain us and future generations by helping homeowners and businesses to responsibly manage rain water wherever it falls.”
Larsen recommends several no-low-cost ways homeowners can reduce their stormwater runoff. These include:
- Redirect your downspouts: Direct downspouts and gutters onto your lawn and plant beds, or into rain barrels, cisterns or containment areas.
- Police your yard and storm drain: Don't dump anything down storm drains. Be sure to clear away branches, leaves, trash and other debris to prevent obstructions. Sweep grass clippings, fertilizer and soil onto your lawn so they don’t get washed into storm drains. Pick up pet waste to help reduce bacterial and nutrient pollution.
- Mow your lawn less often: Try to keep your lawn at least 3 inches in height, which reduces the need for watering and increases absorption of rain water. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to block weeds and retain moisture. Sweep clippings on your sidewalks and driveway on to your lawn rather than hosing them down.
- Clean up your driveway: Clean up oil spills and fluid leaks from your car when parked in your driveway. Use cat litter to absorb oil and be sure to sweep up the litter once it absorbs the oil and dispose of it in a trash bag.
- Wash your car with care: Take your car to the car wash instead of washing it in the driveway. Or, move your car onto your lawn to wash it, so water soaks into the ground and doesn’t run into sewers.
- Plant more plants: Incorporate plantings, especially in areas where runoff collects. As runoff soaks into soil, plant roots help absorb and filter out pollutants. When runoff soaks into and percolates through soil, the soil also acts as a filter, removing some pollutants.
Additionally, for homeowners that want to do more, Larsen recommends several common products managing stormwater that can be purchased at home improvement and hardware stores:
- Catch basin: Designed to trap sediment, debris, contaminants and pollutants so that they cannot enter drainage pipes, catch basins are installed beneath downspouts. Large objects, such as leaves, will be filtered out and heavier bits, such as dirt, will sink to the bottom of the basin.
- French drain: A trench filled with gravel or rock or containing a perforated pipe, a French drain directs stormwater away from a specific area, blocks the passage of excess debris and collects water over the entire length of the drain instead of one particular spot.
- Dry well: An underground structure that collects and retains runoff, a dry well is typically a round plastic container with holes in it to allow water to slowly seep out and return to the groundwater.
- Permeable pavers: An alternative to traditional paving methods for driveways, walkways and patios, permeable pavers are typically honeycombed 3D grid-cellular systems, made of plastic and other materials, that naturally filter stormwater and reduce runoff that can pollute waterways.
NDS maintains an online Home Drainage Center that offers free information for fixing existing or potential drainage problems, and how-to guides to installing drainage products.
Read more about wastewater treatment.