Managing stormwater in urban and rural areas: Part 2

Adopting ways to reduce the amount of water going to storm sewers and drains can protect our waterways.

Stormwater is inevitable. All rain, snow and sleet produces runoff. Depending on the type of soil, runoff may be more (clay soils) or less (sandy soils) based on its permeability. Unless controlled, stormwater runoff can have serious consequences: pollution of local waterways and flooding of streets and basements. Part 1 of this series discussed ways to reduce contaminants from getting into stormwater. This article will discuss ways to reduce the amount of runoff.

Reducing stormwater means diverting it into areas that will absorb the water rather than letting it run off into storm sewers or drainage ditches.

Impervious surfaces prevent water from soaking into the ground. Impervious surfaces include any concrete or asphalt roads, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops.

  • Sloped, ditched roads and parking lots without curbs allow water to run off into grassy areas to be absorbed slowly.
  • Consider using gravel or wood chips for walkways or paver stones for patios and walkways. These materials allow water to soak through into the ground below.
  • Some companies and communities are re-paving parking lots and streets with “porous pavement.” These types of materials look like asphalt but allow water to penetrate through it.

During the next rain, head outside to check your house gutters and downspouts. Make sure that the water runs from the roof into the gutter and down the downspout. If it’s spilling over the gutter, there is a blockage either in the gutter or downspout.

  • Make sure all downspouts are directed far enough out from the house onto grass or garden areas – not paved surfaces. The grass area will absorb the water while the pavement will transport it directly onto storm sewers or ditches.
  • If the roof does not have gutters, plant grass or use mulch at the drip line to prevent erosion and increase absorption. Also, angle this area down and away from the building’s foundation to prevent flooding inside the structure.

Rain barrels and gardens are an excellent way to retain/manage stormwater. A rain barrel attached to the downspout collects the rain for later use to water lawns and gardens.

Rain gardens are designed to collect stormwater and allow it to infiltrate the ground. They are low maintenance perennial gardens usually located in a low spot on the property away from structures. A properly constructed rain garden should absorb stormwater within a day. It is not a pond to hold water for long periods. Location, plants and soil preparation are essential to a successful rain garden.

Reducing the amount of runoff also reduces the amount of contaminants mixing with stormwater and getting to our local waterways.

For more information on rain barrels, see “Rain barrels are economical and ecological” from Michigan State University Extension.

For information on rain gardens, go to and search “rain gardens”

Other articles in this series:

Did you find this article useful?