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Green Solutions

In municipal separate storm sewer systems, stormwater is simply discharged untreated into the rivers and streams we use for swimming, fishing and drinking water. Improperly managed stormwater causes increased flooding, water quality degradation, stream channel erosion, reduced groundwater recharge, and loss of aquatic life. Some of these problems can be avoided or minimized through effective stormwater management techniques that not only reduce the volume and rate of stormwater runoff, but also reduce the pollutants contained in the runoff.  These techniques are often referred to stormwater “Best Management Practices” (BMPS) or green infrastructure solutions.

These techniques help to mitigate both the quantity and quality of runoff caused through changes to land use but can be especially useful in urban settings to control wet weather overflows.  It is a simple approach by controlling stormwater at the site where it falls. They can be both structural—devices installed or constructed on a site, such as green roofs, retention facilities (ponds or tanks), bioswales, permeable pavement, and rain gardens—or operational practices, such as minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Effective management of stormwater runoff using green solutions or BMPs offers a multitude of possible benefits, including protection of aquatic ecosystems, improved water quality, conservation of water resources, ground water recharge, protection of public health, and flood control. BMPs are designed to reduce stormwater volume, peak flows, and nonpoint source pollution through evapotranspiration, a process by which the water re-enters the water cycle; infiltration of the stormwater back into the ground water table or detaining stormwater until it can absorbed into the ground or transported for treatment during dry weather.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection created a Best Management Practices Manual to help municipalities create an effective stormwater management program. The EPA provides extensive resources on green infrastructure solutions on its website.  Throughout your community, you may see BMPs in use such as, stormwater detention basins, vegetated swales, public rain gardens, green roofs or porous pavement used in parking lots or sidewalks. Trees and green streets are a very sustainable approach with a triple bottom line impact on the community through stormwater management, reduction of the urban heat island effect and improved community aesthetics.

Individual homeowners can also take initiatives to control runoff and improve water quality  by using non structural and structural BMPs on their own property such as rain gardens or rain barrels or green practices such as:                    

  • Limiting or eliminating the use of fertilizers and pesticides—runoff can pollute streams and groundwater. Use environmentally friendly household and lawn products
  • Collecting oil and other automotive products for recycling or proper disposal through a hazardous waste program
  • Washing cars on the lawn or at a commercial car wash so the detergents don’t run into the storm drains.  When car wash wastes percolate into the ground, it allows the soil to filtrate and “treat” the water through natural renovation.
  • Cleaning up pet waste that can wash into storm drains to prevent runoff into streams and storm drains
  • Conserving water, especially during wet weather. The less water that goes down the drain during periods of wet weather means less of a burden on our often overtaxed sewer systems.

For more ways that you can help to protect our water resources: