Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Chris Gass
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Managing stormwater runoff

The Green Guy


Earlier this month, I was able to attend the two-day Stormwater Practices Inspections and Maintenance Workshop geared towards teaching the best ways to inspect and maintain stormwater green infrastructures. No doubt, the workshop is tailored to a niche community which I happily take interest in but understand that many others do not. This meant getting deep into the weeds about various runoff management devices and techniques that help us alleviate the problems with uncontrolled runoff while also examining the nuances between different installations. Throughout this workshop though, three simple points were reiterated as the primary considerations whenever we implement a practice: rate, quantity, and quality. I’ll elaborate below but I bring this up this week because having these considerations in mind is helpful in anything stormwater related, whether on your property or otherwise. This can also help you as a community member better connect with what is trying to be achieved through green infrastructure installations and understand the steps being taken by your neighbors or city.

So, what does rate, quantity, and quality mean? Well, storm runoff has three influencing factors that we need to address. The rate at which it flows, the quantity of water, and water quality. If you’re hung up on the difference between rate and quantity, imagine the difference in trying to empty a bathtub of water through a straw and fire hose. You’ll move the same amount of water far slower through the straw than the firehose. We want that and in fact our goal in tackling rate, quantity and quality is to create spaces that collect, reduce and improve the incoming water.

Following this sequence, collection is the first stage to our process. We collect it so we can do something else with it and ultimately keep it from going down the storm drain. Next is reduction which is achieved by providing time for infiltration, evaporation, or uptake by vegetation. Simultaneously, we have improvement as pollutants are reduced by filtering, settling, plant uptake, and chemical breakdown when stored in the structure.

We can see all this in action by observing a structure like a rain garden during a rain event. Water will be directed into the depressed area and hopefully collect a 1 inch rain event from whatever source it’s meant to handle (maybe a roof or driveway). When stored, it will start infiltrating into the soil and being wicked up by plants or porous debris like mulch. Cleaning is had by filtering from the soil, settling of debris suspended in the water, and uptake of otherwise polluting nutrients by vegetation. When all’s said and done, entering runoff may never leave the garden or it may spill over the edge yet at a slowed rate and cleaner than before.

Mind you, all this is achieved by a simple and properly sized depression in the ground with some functional and pretty plants. Similar effects can be seen if you reroute a drain spout into your grass or if you install a rain barrel. Planting a tree in your yard also dramatically reduces runoff and greatly improves infiltration rates. Managing stormwater on your property doesn’t have to be complex and might be achieved from some simple renovations. Feel free to reach out to our office or me to learn more.


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