The Lake Champlain Basin typically receives 35 inches of rain annually but we rarely think about where the rain goes and its impact on our environment.
When rain falls on a field or forested landscape, it soaks into the ground naturally but when it falls on an urban landscape, it runs off hard or “impervious” surfaces like roofs, driveways, and sidewalks, and flows into the storm sewer system and is known as “stormwater runoff”. As stormwater runoff moves across the urban landscape it picks up debris, chemicals, oil and other pollutants before entering the storm sewer system. Anything that enters the storm sewer system including the stormwater runoff is discharged untreated to water bodies we use for swimming, fishing and drinking water. Stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals and people. An increased volume of stormwater runoff can cause stream bank erosion and water pollution. Sediment can cloud the water, making it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow, which can degrade aquatic habitats. Stormwater often affects drinking water sources which can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.
For more information about reducing and preventing excess stormwater runoff, check out our residential low-impact development page.
In the City of South Burlington, one in three homes has a downspout, or vertical pipe for carrying rainwater from a gutter to ground level, that empties into the City’s storm drain system. During a heavy rainfall, a downspout can drain as much as 12 gallons of water per minute. Other communities in the Basin have similar problems. Redirecting even one downspout away from the storm drain system can significantly reduce the impact a home has on our waterways. Read about some easy to implement solutions to help reduce runoff from you property:
Install a Rain Barrel
One option to reduce stormwater runoff is to collect rainwater from rooftops in a rain barrel. The water, held in a mosquito-proof container can be used later on lawn or garden areas.
Plant a Rain Garden
Specially designed areas planted with native plants can provide natural places for rainwater to collect and soak into the ground. Rain from rooftop areas or paved areas can be diverted into these areas rather than into storm drains.
Redirect your Downspouts
To ensure that stormwater is running into proper drainage areas, check that downspouts are directed away from your home’s foundation. Downspouts should also end on grass or another place where it can be absorbed.