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How To Reduce Stormwater Runoff From Your Home or Business

Updated on July 17, 2010

Stormwater runoff is a major problem in the United States.

Stormwater runoff from rainstorms, snowmelt, and overwatering is a major source of water pollution in the United States and around the world. In fact, an estimated 70% of all surface and groundwater pollution originates from stormwater running off asphalt, rooftops, agricultural fields, and other sites.

Stormwater runoff can also contribute to soil erosion and flooding of roads, basements, and other structures when the amount of runoff overwhelms the systems designed to manage it.

As a result of these problems, many states and cities are cracking down on stormwater runoff and even fining homeowners and businesses who do not take adequate steps to manage runoff.

Pervious Vs. Impervious Surfaces

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. "Protecting Water Quality from Urban Runoff." Document No. EPA 841-F-03-003
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. "Protecting Water Quality from Urban Runoff." Document No. EPA 841-F-03-003

Reducing Stormwater Runoff

Here are some creative ways to reduce stormwater runoff from your home or business:

  • Install permeable pavement. Permeable pavers allow water to sink into the ground, instead of polling on streets or sidewalks, or entering the stormwater system. Permeable pavers should not be used in areas with a high probability of toxic spills and are best suited to low or moderate traffic areas such as driveways, alley ways, and patios. They have also been used successfully in parking lots. When installed properly, permeable pavement is durable and low maintenance. It also offers other benefits, such as lower cooling bills and reduced chances of slips and falls due to the rougher surface and reduced ice buildup.
  • Install a rain barrel, cistern, or other rainwater collection system. Rain collection systems are becoming increasingly common around the country, especially in California and the Southwest. These systems collect and store rainwater for future use. The collected rainwater is most commonly used to water plants during dry periods, but filtration systems are available that can make the water appropriate for use washing clothes, bathing, and even drinking. Large rainwater cisterns or barrels are also sometimes used in passive solar designs to create thermal mass and reduce heating and cooling bills.
  • Install a green roof. Green roofs are roofs covered in vegetation. They work kind of like permeable pavement for roofs. Instead of running off the shingles, rainwater is absorbed by the plants and their growing medium. Green roofs must be designed carefully to ensure structural soundness, but they offer many additional benefits, including significantly reduced heating and cooling bills in many parts of the country. Depending on the plants chosen, green roofs can also be used to grow vegetables or fruits for people, or to provide habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies.
  • Install a living wall. Living walls are similar to green roofs, but are vertical surfaces instead of horizontal. Some living walls are designed to reduce (or even filter) stormwater runoff.
  • Install a rain garden. Rain gardens are gardens designed to collect and filter stormwater runoff to prevent it from pooling or entering the stormwater system. In addition to being helpful stormwater management tools, rain gardens are beautiful additions to any landscape, and can be designed to provide habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies.
  • Install a constructed wetland or living machine. Though most commonly used for wastewater treatment, constructed wetlands and living machines can also be used as part of a stormwater reduction system. It is possible to design these systems to produce potable water. They are also commonly used to provide wildlife habitat and/or for aquaculture. Living machines are also commonly incorporated into greenhouses, which can be used to produce cut flowers or similar products.

More Stormwater Reduction Tips


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    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      All great ideas. Wish we would see more of this stuff being implemented.

    • billips profile image

      billips 6 years ago from Central Texas

      Very good green information. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Great hub. Recently, I saw a green roof. Not only was it very attractive, but I imagine provides fantastic insulation if done properly. I saw a picture of a building with the green wall and it was beautiful.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

      Great suggestions and much to think about with all of the flooding problems that seem to be growing across the USA.