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Stormwater and Runoff

Stormwater is the result of precipitation events that gather in our ditches, drainages, and other systems to eventually flow to a water body source such as a pond, a detention basin, or a creek or river. Water is an easy way to move something from one location to another location if its not stationary or permanent in nature. I bring this up because where I live we are heading into breakup season, with the snow melting, puddling, and flowing towards the path of least resistance… usually a slough or a nearby river.

The amount of stormwater proportionately increases with the amount of impervious surfaces in a location. More urbanized settings will have a higher amount of stormwater to handle during an event. Events are defined as precipitation received, that is the length and duration of a rain storm. Volume calculations are used to determine what type of event you may of had such as a 50-year storm even or a 500-year storm event. In recent years, here in the Interior, we’ve been experiencing a lot of 100-year events. This is amusing because theoretically, you should only be experiencing a certain storm type once in that period of years  (so one event per 100 years). I really think the charts are due for an update to better reflect the recent climate and weather changes the world has been experiencing.

That’s honestly the technical side of it, and probably my preferred side of the problem. Calculating storm events to determine what kinds of mitigation techniques would be the most useful is fun to me as an engineer. The environmental side is more of a ‘please don’t throw that on the ground’ type of approach. Vehicles and equipment that have drips and leaks to pet waste become concerns depending on the quantity and the fact that it can go directly into our water resources.  Breakup is especially bad about this because things have been hiding under layers of snow and suddenly you’re murdering a small school of fish that just barely established itself in a slough a block up from your backyard last summer. So, it’s important to not throw things on the ground, dump out oil on the ground or pavement, let gasoline spill in spots, and anything else that’s hazardous. 

Resources
SEH – 25 Stormwater Facts
Stormwater Runoff and How to Prevent It
Stormwater Pollution Fast Facts
Keep It Clean


I am not sure if these articles are interesting to anyone reading here, but I’m finding it nice to practice with research and stating facts, while trying to put my own personal views and experience out there. It can sometimes be a struggle to determine what to write since I’m trying to do something like this once a month and with how broad and sometimes overlapping the ideas out there are, it can be hard to pick or narrow one down.  We have to write articles at work for our specific program areas, so this has been kind of fun to reflect on the various topics out there and sharing my own personal understanding from my professional and educational experience.

If there’s a topic of interest that you’re curious to know more about, please feel free to leave a suggestion for me!

4 Comments

  1. I find it fairly interesting. I always used to love doing research in school and writing up little projects. I remember doing them from later years in elementary school onwards. I didn’t go to university and don’t have a job that would require anything like that but I always love to learn about things I would never really pay much attention or thought of before.

    For this particularly I knew the techicalities of it years ago but honestly it’s not something I think about much. I know to be careful what could potential get into the runoff and to always clean up messes and spills but beyond that I never really would have thought beyond myself to what my neighbor was doing to ensure nothing got into the water supply.

    • Kristina Kristina

      I think I miss being able to do this from school in general. I’ve always been hesitant to do it on my blog because I get this imposter feeling despite having spent my career in this field. If anything, writing this stuff has helped me feel a bit more confident and is definitely help solidifying what I know.

  2. These things are very interesting and I tend to not be aware of how things people throw on streets can get into the runoff.
    Regarding 50-year events, 500-year events etc, would you say that the more rare events (or, those that should be rare!) are always more severe? Or just that they are rare? Lately with all extreme weathers all over the world, we hear these terms all the time but I haven’t thought of what they mean really.

    • Kristina Kristina

      That’s a good question! Both. The reason for the severity of the event is due to the rarity of it. With the extreme weather we’ve been having, the charts and calibration for it feels off. You typically design for a 100-year storm, but how do you counteract for a 500-year storm event that’s showing up more like a 100-year storm event? Engineering is all about designing for the public health and safety, so then you have to rethink what you’ve learned and apply common sense to something in order to ensure the public’s health and safety.

      I feel like I rambled, so I hope that makes some amount of sense?

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