What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the water from rain or melting snow that is not absorbed into the ground. In urban areas, stormwater goes into storm sewers (the grated drains found on streets), which empty directly into rivers, creeks or the ocean. Managing stormwater and drainage is key to preserving the health of urban streams and rivers.
The challenge of urban areas
In nature, trees and earth help absorb rain slowly, breaking down pollutants, refilling groundwater and keeping waterways healthy. Maintaining this cycle is a challenge in urban areas that are covered in buildings, roads and other surfaces that don't allow rainwater to soak into the ground.
How stormwater affects local rivers and streams
As it travels to storm sewers, stormwater picks up pollution along the way. Stormwater may look clean, but it can contain motor oil, gasoline, dog poo, garbage, fertilizer and other contaminants. These materials go directly into the nearest body of water, where they can be harmful to plants and wildlife.
Heavy rains can also put high volumes of stormwater into streams and creeks in a short period of time. This can cause erosion and stir up sediment, making it hard for fish to breathe.
The traditional approach to stormwater management was to drain stormwater as quickly as possible into the nearest waterway. Modern approaches try to mimic natural processes and allow stormwater to soak into the ground or be released more slowly into local waters.
Who does what: local and regional government roles
Local governments are responsible for managing stormwater. They operate and maintain the storm sewer systems that carry stormwater from private properties to the nearest waterway. Their responsibilities include enacting regulations, cleaning storm drains and education programs.
Metro Vancouver has a more limited role, providing regional policy guidance and coordination through forums such as the Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (SILG). This group allows municipalities to share knowledge, experience and expertise and provides guidance on sustainable stormwater management practices.
Metro Vancouver has developed A Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management that local governments can modify and distribute to their residents. The guide is intended to help residents understand the stormwater features on their property and how to maintain them.
What you can do
Never dump anything down a storm drain
Anything that goes into a storm drain goes directly into the nearest body of water.
- Recycle used motor oil and antifreeze.
Find a recycling location.
Find a take-back program for paints, solvents, and other household chemicals
- Wash your car at a commercial car wash, where soaps will be collected and channeled into the treatment system.
Create a rain-friendly yard
Reduce the amount of water going into storm drains by allowing water to soak into the ground, where it can help plants and recharge streams, rivers or lakes.
- If you are repaving your driveway or sidewalk, use pervious materials like grass pavers, mulch, gravel or porous concrete
- Add more topsoil or mulch
- Plant a tree
- Build a rain garden
- Maintain any existing rain-friendly features
Grow Green to find out ways to create a more sustainable garden or lawn space.
Reduce chemicals and other materials in your yard
Cutting down the amount of chemicals and other materials in your yard means less will be carried into storm drains and end up in our local waters.
- Use less fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides
- Keep clippings and other yard waste out of creeks, streams and other waterways (they can be composted)
- Pick up after your pet