In the Toolkit --

Introduction

  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources

    MANAGING STORMWATER RUNOFF

    According to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, heavy downpours are increasing nationally, with the largest increases in the Midwest and Northeast. But increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are projected for all U.S. regions. This is expected to occur even in regions where total precipitation is projected to decrease, such as the Southwest.

    Intense precipitation events contribute to flooding in urban areas where large expanses of impervious surfaces (such as roads, parking lots, and buildings) prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground. Instead, stormwater runs into storm drains and sewer systems, and when heavy downpours exceed drainage capacity, urban flooding results. In addition, the runoff picks up and carries with it a variety of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, oil and grease, animal waste, toxic chemicals, and trash -- posing a serious threat to water quality. Moreover, the quantity and speed of flow of the runoff can cause erosion as well as damage to aquatic habitat, property, and infrastructure.

    In municipalities with separate stormwater sewer systems, the stormwater is collected and transmitted with little or no treatment to a local waterway, where the stormwater and pollutants it has collected are released. This stormwater runoff is a major cause of swimming beach closings and advisories. It also degrades the water quality of streams, rivers, and lakes where it can harm fish and wildlife, foul drinking water supplies, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.

    Many older cities in the Northeast and the Midwest, however, have combined sewer systems that collect stormwater and convey it to a municipal wastewater treatment plant in the same pipes that are used to collect sewage. During heavy rainfall events, when the combined system is unable to handle the increased volume, the blend of stormwater and sewage is released at designated overflow locations and allowed into the local waterway.

    Adaptive solutions

    Traditional stormwater management systems focus on collecting runoff and moving it offsite as quickly as possible. The green infrastructure approach, on the other hand, treats stormwater as a resource and uses the natural processes of soils and vegetation to absorb and store rainwater near where it falls.

    Green infrastructure techniques include --

    Green infrastructure enhances community sustainability in many ways --

    Green infrastructure also has proven economic benefits --

    In 2011, NRDC created an "Emerald City Scale" that identified six actions that cities should take to maximize green strategies for controlling stormwater and combined sewer overflows: (1) develop a long term green infrastructure plan for the city; (2) develop and enforce a strong stormwater retention standard for development projects; (3) require the use of green infrastructure to reduce runoff from existing impervious surfaces; (4) provide incentives for private-party installation of green infrastructure; (5) provide guidance or other assistance in deploying green infrastucture; and (6) ensure a dedicated funding source to support green infrastructure investment.

    WHAT LEAGUES CAN DO TO HELP THEIR COMMUNITIES MANAGE THE IMPACTS OF FLOODING AND RUNOFF

    Start by reviewing the general information about What Your League Can Do To Promote Climate Preparedness In Your Community.

    Borrow some ideas from the LWV Lake Michigan Region and its education project, Stormwater from the Ground Up. The project website includes videos of local League programs on stormwater management and a Stormwater Action Kit, including sections with information useful for all, for homeowners, and for neighborhoods and regions.

    Conduct a workshop for homeowners using materials from the Center for Neighborhood Technology's RainReady program. 

    Educate residents about how they can reduce polluted runoff from their property. Steps they can take include the following: Use porous pavement materials and native vegetation to reduce runoff. Use fertilizers sparingly. Sweep driveways and sidewalks rather than using a hose. Use Integrated Pest Management to reduce dependence on harmful pesticides. Pick up after pets. Dispose of chemicals properly. Check cars for leaks and recycle motor oil and antifreeze. Use car wash facilities that do not generate runoff.

    EPA's guidebook, Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure, discusses ways in which green infrastructure enhances community sustainability and offers strategies for engaging key stakeholders in developing and implementing a green infrastructure plan.

    RESOURCES

    Last updated: 10/3/2016