What is Stormwater?

"Stormwater is an all-inclusive term that refers to any of the water running off of the land's surface after a rainfall or snowmelt event."  -Minnesota Stormwater Manual

Stormwater is a term used to describe all water that isn't able to soak into the ground and runs off into storm drains, ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. Historically, this did not happen regularly since rainwater or snowmelt was able to infiltrate the ground. Now, with increased amounts of impervious surface, like parking lots, streets, and rooftops, more and more water from rain and snow simply runs straight to water bodies. This has the potential to negatively impoact our local water resources, like increased flooding of streams and the pollution of our lakes and ponds. 

Stormwater is often managed through Best Management Practices.


What can I do about Stormwater?

If stormwater is such a big issue, what can we do to make a difference?

Lawn and Garden Maintenance

• Use fertilizers and pesticides sparingly, especially near waterbodies
• Select native plants and grasses that are drought tolerant and pest resistant.
• Compost or recycle yard waste.
• Cover piles of dirt and mulch to prevent them from washing into drains.
• Sweep up yard debris, rather than hosing down areas.
• Plant grass or vegetation where soil is exposed. Cigarette Butts and other Trash
• Put your cigarette butts and other litter in garbage bins!
• If there is no garbage bin handy, hold onto your litter until you find one.
• Pitch in and help clean up littered areas.
• Sweep up and properly dispose of construction debris like concrete and mortar.

Importance of proper yard clean-up

Grass clippings and fallen tree leaves are filled with phosphorous. Algal growth in Minnesota is limited by the amount of phosphorous that is in the water.  Additions of these nutrients to lakes and streams increase algal growth and in turn, degrade water quality.  Any amount of phosphorous that is removed from the system will result in reduction of algal growth and the increase water quality. 

Fall Yard Tips

  • If leaves are less than 2 inches thick, mulch them by making several passes with a lawn mower. The shredded leaves will provide nutrients for your lawn. Another option is to compost leaves and grass clippings.
  • Rake or sweep tree leaves and grass clippings from streets, driveways, and sidewalks.
  • Never dispose leaves or grass clippings in wetlands, lakes, rivers, or streams.
  • Keep street clean of other materials containing phosphorus, like grass clippings and eroded soil.
  • If fertilizing is necessary, use a phosphorus free fertilizer. Minnesota’s Phosphorus Lawn Fertilizer Law requires phosphorus free fertilizer on established lawns unless a soil test shows the need for phosphorus.Leave your grass clippings where they lie.
  • Mow regularly, clippings decompose quickly and release nutrients to the lawn.
  • One season of grass clippings = One fertilizer application

Household Hazardous Wastes

• Use the appropriate amount of hazardous substances (paints, solvents, cleaners) for the job.
• Store substances properly, away from drainage areas.
• Clean water based painting supplies over soil.
• Filter and reuse paint thinner.
• Dispose of excess paints and solvents during household hazardous waste collection programs.
• Clean up spills immediately.
• Dispose of solvent waste by following the instructions printed on the label. Swimming Pool and Spa Care
• Drain your pool only when the test kit does not detect chlorine levels.
• Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system.
• Properly store pool and spa chemicals to prevent leaks and spills, preferably in a covered area.

Pet Waste Management

• When walking your pet, pick up waste and dispose of it properly.
• Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method.
• Do not dispose of pet waste near storm drains or waterbodies.

Septic System Maintenance

• Have your system inspected by a professional every three to five years.
• Pump your tank as necessary (every three to five years).
• Care for the septic leach field by not driving or parking vehicles on it.
• Plant only grass over and near the leach field to avoid damage from roots.
• Don’t dispose of household hazardous waste in sinks or toilets.

Vehicle Maintenance and Repair

• Use a commercial car wash or wash your car on a lawn or other unpaved surface to minimize the amount of dirty, soapy water flowing into the storm drain, culvert or ditch.
• Check your car, boat, motorcycle, machinery and equipment for leaks and spills.
• Clean up spilled fluids with an absorbent material like kitty litter or sand.
• Recycle used oil and other automotive fluids at participating service stations.

For more information you can go to the following links:

Stormwater - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

"After the Storm" - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Oceanside Clean Water Program (CWP)

What is Runoff? Minnehaha Creek Watershed District

Follow the Stormwater Management Projects link so see what the PRWD is doing

For a fun activity to do with a small group or classroom click here - Demo

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