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Why every community needs a stormwater management plan

December 7, 2023

Urban environments, by their very nature, create ideal conditions for excessive stormwater runoff. As these areas expand rapidly, alongside the evolving challenges of climate change, the need for comprehensive stormwater management becomes more critical. These expanding cities, with their unpredictable shifts in climate patterns, significantly impact stormwater systems in complexity and scale.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urbanization significantly increases runoff, with rates ranging from two to almost six times greater than those on natural terrain. The consequences of this runoff are compounded further by the marked increase in extreme weather events. For instance, from 1958 to 2016, the most intense 1 percent of rainfall events in the Northeast U.S. saw a 55 percent increase in precipitation; in the Midwest, it was 42 percent.

Yet, despite urban flooding leading to annual losses of $9 billion and the consistent worsening of stormwater pollution every year, funding for stormwater management still ranks as the lowest priority in water infrastructure needs.

Overlooked and overflowing

As we grapple with the dual challenges of urbanization and increasing extreme weather events, there’s a pressing need to bridge the gap between current capabilities and future requirements in stormwater management. The stark reality is that traditional approaches are struggling to keep pace with the escalating demands placed on urban stormwater systems. This necessitates a shift towards more innovative, data-driven strategies that leverage the latest advancements in digital data collection and analysis. By doing so, communities can not only respond more effectively to immediate stormwater challenges but also lay the groundwork for long-term, sustainable management solutions that protect both the environment and the population. This transition is crucial in transforming stormwater from a burgeoning crisis into a well-managed, resilient resource.

In this blog, join us as we explore why it’s essential for every community, especially those experiencing rapid growth and bearing the brunt of climate change, to prioritize and implement a robust and effective stormwater management plan (SWMP).

The basics of stormwater management plans

Stormwater management plans are designed to mitigate the risk of flooding by reducing runoff from rainwater, which can strain local stormwater systems. Beyond minimizing flood risks, these plans also play a crucial role in decreasing pollutants in water systems and aiding in the replenishment of groundwater.

Stormwater management plans must align with infrastructure life cycles, community growth, and regulatory compliance. They also must address current program needs and future challenges, such as funding priorities and leadership changes. To sum up, an SWMP is basically a blueprint for sustainable urban water management.

Urban water runoff as visual for Why every community needs a stormwater management plan

Understanding the benefits of stormwater management plans

Stormwater management plans are pivotal, offering multifaceted benefits that extend beyond environmental sustainability. They play a significant role in enhancing community well-being and bolstering urban infrastructure.

Environmental impact

Efficient stormwater management strategies effectively reduce runoff and its associated pollution. These methods work by decelerating the runoff process, allowing water more time to be absorbed into the ground. This localized absorption of stormwater minimizes soil erosion and lessens the transport of pollutants to surface water bodies. By keeping stormwater near its origin, the environmental impact of urban runoff is significantly mitigated.

Community and health benefits

Stormwater management plans address flooding issues in urban areas, a concern with significant implications for both property and public health. These plans encompass strategies for managing and treating stormwater, thereby lessening the likelihood and severity of flooding.

Moreover, incorporating green infrastructure in stormwater management plans extends their benefits beyond mere flood mitigation. Elements like green roofs, permeable pavements, bioswales, and rainwater harvesting systems tackle not only stormwater pollution and flooding but also enrich the urban environment. These green solutions enhance open spaces, creating recreational areas, habitats for wildlife, and better air quality. They also enhance climate resilience and beautify urban areas, creating park-like settings with broad community benefits.

Structural and planning advantages

Stormwater management includes structural upgrades like improving systems and separating sewers from stormwater channels. It also involves nonstructural actions, such as legislative reforms for better water quality. These methods address increased runoff as areas develop and lose permeable surfaces. Additionally, these plans can identify areas needing specific attention, like locations with consistent flooding or outdated stormwater infrastructure, and propose tailored solutions​​.

Overall, stormwater management plans are crucial for sustainable urban growth, harmonizing environmental protection, community welfare, and urban planning. They offer a holistic method for managing water, a vital natural resource.

Advancing stormwater solutions with technology

The incorporation of Internet of Things (IoT) technology and GIS-first data collection platforms like Fulcrum is revolutionizing stormwater management, leading to smarter and more efficient approaches in urban water handling. These technologies are instrumental in developing effective strategies for managing stormwater collection and runoff, identifying mechanical failures, and reducing pollution.

IoT technology enhances stormwater management by providing real-time data on water levels, flow rates, and quality. This data is crucial for timely and effective decision-making, especially in the face of extreme weather conditions. Intelligent IoT devices track water purity, maintain sanitation standards, monitor sediment, and manage gray water. Additionally, IoT sensors help stormwater programs detect when systems near or exceed capacity, enabling timely infrastructure adjustments.

GIS-first data collection platforms like Fulcrum complement these technologies by providing a streamlined approach to collecting and managing stormwater data. These platforms enable field teams to accurately collect digital data, which is essential for maintaining and expanding stormwater infrastructure. By utilizing such platforms, organizations can gather comprehensive data which is crucial for informed decision-making and efficient management of stormwater systems.

The combination of IoT technology and GIS-first data collection platforms is ushering in a new era in stormwater management. The two elements work together to create a more efficient, reliable, and smart approach to managing urban stormwater challenges, ultimately contributing to sustainable water management and urban resilience.

Transforming urban water management

The evolving urban landscapes and climate change phenomena underscore the need for comprehensive stormwater management plans. These plans are not just reactive measures to handle excess water. Instead, they represent a strategic approach towards managing the urban water cycle in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner.

Advanced technologies like IoT and GIS-first platforms, including Fulcrum, greatly enhance stormwater management. They offer precise, real-time data. This is essential for efficiently managing stormwater systems. It’s particularly vital during extreme weather and amidst evolving urban dynamics.

Talk to an expert

If you’re looking to navigate the complexities of stormwater management, engaging with a Fulcrum expert could be your next strategic step. Get in touch with a Fulcrum professional and start shaping a smarter, more resilient stormwater strategy for your clients and your community today!