What is Stormwater?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2019
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Stormwater normally refers to any precipitation that occurs during a rainstorm. At times, the term is used to specifically identify snowmelt or any other type of water that is not readily absorbed into the ground. In cities, this type of water is sometimes known as runoff water, referring to rain that is routed into sewage systems by way of drains. One of the major concerns with stormwater today is the potential for polluting bodies of water as the runoff makes its ways to rivers, streams, and lakes.

The issue of what to do with stormwater has been present in just about every society since the beginning of recorded time. In some situations, channels were created to catch the water and route it to areas where it could be used for growing crops. Today, concerns about pollutants that are picked up by the water as it runs across pavement and other materials have led to attempts to capture the water and run it through sophisticated purification systems. While this approach is feasible in many parts of the world, this level of wastewater management is not possible in many developing countries, as well as some rural areas across the globe.


When the stormwater can be routed through some type of purification process, this makes it easier to minimize the impact that the pollutants have on the main bodies of water in a given geographical area. For example, if a city can capture stormwater through a system of grates and ducts that route the flow of water into a sewage treatment facility, the end result is relatively clean water that can then be used by citizens of the city. The purified water can also be routed into local rivers or lakes without creating disturbances in the local environment.

In order to deal with stormwater in today’s world, many nations provide some type of central regulatory agency that oversees the purification of water within each country. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works with other federal and state level agencies to protect the waterways found across the nation. As technology has made it easier to identify pollutants in the water, as well as enhance the efficiency of the purification methods, more and more municipalities are enjoying water that is clean and suitable for bathing, cooking, and drinking. While efforts to capture and purify stormwater are continuing to advance, there are still many places where the water is not adequately cleaned, which in turn leads to a number of environmental issues for humans as well as other forms of life in the immediate area.



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