There are a number of ways to manage stormwater runoff on a site. The most effective way is to prevent it from occuring in the first place. This can be done through Low Impact Development (LID), “an innovative land planning and engineering design approach which seeks to maintain a sites pre-development ecological and hydrologic function through the protection, enhancement, and/or mimicry of natural processes.” In simpler terms, LID tries to maintain the natural characteristics and function (green infrastructure) of a site so that it can continue to provide a variety of social, economic, and environmental benefits.
LID is based on eight main principles (from Vermont DEC Green Infrastructure page):
- Conservation Development
- Minimize Soil Compaction
- Minimize Total Disturbance
- Protect Natural Flow Patterns
- Protect Riparian Buffers
- Protect Sensitive Areas
- Reduce Impervious Surfaces
- Stormwater Disconnection
When effectively used, LID can be a great tool for mitigating issues associated with stormwater runoff because in general it serves to slow water down, spread it out, and soak it in. Often, LID strategies use water that falls on a site’s impervious surfaces (roofs, walkways, parking areas) for functional and sometimes beautiful applications. Conventional development, on the contrary, centralizes flow and increases overland speed. This contributes to pollutant loading, streambank erosion, and localized flooding.
Unfortunately, not all sites are developed using LID. In fact, the vast majority of existing homes and buildings were constructed using conventional development. On these sites, we focus on using Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) to restore hydrologic function. GSI is a variety of “systems and practices that restore and maintain natural hydrologic processes in order to reduce the volume and water quality impacts of the built environment while providing multiple societal benefits.” These are practices that were developed with nature in mind and often serve more than a singular function. A rain barrel, for instance, provides local storage of water and can also be used to water plants.
Here we outline a few of the most popular GSI elements and break them down so you can get started putting your stormwater to good use.
Want to just buy one? Many local garden centers sell premade barrels in a variety of styles. Jack’s Composters & Rain Barrels is a VT company in North Hero who have been making quality rain-collection units for decades.
Rain gardens can be found all over Vermont on private and public lands. You can even adopt your very own rain garden at a park or library near you. Find out more about that program here.
Permeable Walks and Driveways
Vermont has seen an increase in the use of permeable road surfaces in recent years. There are several types of pervious materials that are used as parking, driving and walking surfaces but the basic idea behind each is the same – a deep base of gravel and sand form the underlayment for a top layer that can pass water through it. The technology comes in the form of concrete, asphalt and pavers. The base provides structure and pore space where water can be held after a rain event as it slowly infiltrates into the surrounding soils. Many of the materials have been used with success for decades in Europe but new developments are making them more robust in our cold climate. Another driving factor is the high cost of land making permeable surfaces a desirable solution for developers. Just as important to remember is the reduction of surface stormwater flow from these porous materials. The more rain we can contain and infiltrate, the better for the health of our precious waterways. Click here for more information on these and other pervious road surfaces.
There are other practices that qualify too – like vegetated swales and dry wells. So, if you’ve got an idea for how to store or absorb your stormwater, let us know. We are happy to provide assistance, advise, a site visit and cash to eligible applicants.