Stormwater: Why All the Fuss?
Stormwater runoff is the leading source of water pollution in urban areas. Stormwater is rain or snowmelt that runs off hard (impervious) surfaces such as parking lots, roads, and roofs. Pollutants are picked up by stormwater which then flows untreated to the nearest waterway and eventually the French Broad River. Common pollutants in stormwater include trash, oil & gas, lawn fertilizer, pesticides, and bacteria. Impervious surfaces also prevent rain or snowmelt from soaking into the ground and recharging our groundwater supply.
All this collective stormwater can becomes quite a powerful force. The energy behind this large amount of stormwater scours streambanks leading to erosion, property loss and sediment pollution.
Increasing development in Western North Carolina has led to an increase in impervious surfaces and stormwater runoff within the French Broad River watershed. In order to protect our water quality, communities must pursue low impact development, which puts an emphasis on green infrastructure (GI). These solutions work with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. The goal is to keep it on site, slow it down, and let it soak in. As stormwater soaks into the soil, microbes break down pollutants while native plants absorb water, and tiny underground channels return water to aquifers and springs.
In recent years, the regional impacts of climate change include stronger, more frequent storms. Stronger storms unleash greater quantities of stormwater that must be managed responsibly to reduce the increased risks of flooding, erosion, and contamination of our watershed. Green infrastructure helps us respond to these impacts while also bolstering our resilience to drought and increasing temperatures.
RiverLink’s Watershed Resources Program pursues grant funding to install green infrastructure known as stormwater control measures (SCMs), which capture, store, and filter stormwater runoff before it enters our waterways. These measures include rain gardens, bioretention cells, and wetlands. In addition to protecting water quality, SCMs can be beautiful additions to the landscape and provide important habitat for wildlife.