Stormwater runoff is a serious water quality problem.
Rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and Long Island Sound are affected by excess stormwater runoff.
The impermeable surfaces of modern cities, such as pavement and rooftops, disrupt the natural evaporation and soil absorption of rainfall. Runoff from hard surfaces causes local flooding and accumulates greases, salts, fertilizers, and pesticides that can kill fish and damage shellfish beds and aquatic plants. In Connecticut’s older cities like Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford, many stormwater and sewer systems are combined, causing the pipes to fill up quickly when it rains and forcing sewage into Long Island Sound. These discharges lead to beach and shellfish bed closures every year--which is costly for our tourism and shellfishing industries.
The effects of stormwater runoff are harmful to our waterways and the creatures that call them home.
Reducing impervious surfaces and managing stormwater where it falls can be a challenge in heavily urbanized environments. Separating combined storm-sewer pipes can also be costly and does not address the pollution problems associated with untreated stormwater runoff.
There is a direct relationship between impervious surface cover and water quality in Long Island Sound and its tributaries. As impervious surface increases, water quality decreases. In Connecticut, we start seeing impairments to rivers when impervious cover exceeds 12% of total cover type. Save the Sound launched the innovative Sound Health Explorer in the summer of 2015. The interactive mapping tool allows visitors see the relationship between impervious cover and bacterial contamination, and to investigate the the health of beaches, bays, and harbors from New York to Rhode Island. Source: soundhealthexplorer.org.
Stormwater runoff doesn’t have to be so destructive.
Green infrastructure--which uses plants and other engineered systems to mimic nature's hydrologic processes--can filter and soak up stormwater where it falls. Green infrastructure, like rain gardens, bioswales, pervious pavement, and green roofs, can help to reduce stormwater runoff, address localized flooding, and eliminate sewage overflows.
Cities across the US, including Seattle, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, have embraced green infrastructure as part of their stormwater and sewage overflow reduction plans. While costs vary, implementation expenses can be lower or equal to traditional infrastructure approaches. Additional benefits make it even more attractive: green vegetation can increase property values, provide habitat for birds and pollinators, and mitigate the impacts of urban heat island effect.
It’s time to take action!