Stormwater can be detrimental to water quality in a variety of ways if running through a home construction site or a newly graded road, it can carry a slew of contaminants that can make their way into streams and watersheds.
This is an issue that Summit County faces, and to aid in the effort to clean up stormwater the county has begun formulating a Stormwater Strategic Plan, headed up by Senior Engineer Leslie Crawford.
"The [Summit County] Council wanted the Engineering Department to look at water quality, specifically stormwater," Crawford said. "The problem is that discharges are released into streams that have a significant number of contaminants in them."
A major concern regarding stormwater quality is construction, Crawford said. Because of the impact on the land that construction of a new home has, for example, sediment can be released and carried with stormwater to various bodies of water. Most stormwater releases are generated by private property owners doing work on their property, Crawford said.
Educating the public is crucial to ensuring stormwater quality is good, she said.
"People need to know the impacts of what they're doing and what could result from those actions," Crawford said.
Some steps individual homeowners can take include creating rain gardens for collecting runoff and using softscape landscaping rather than hardscape. While hardscape focuses more on the use of materials such as stone and rock, softscape centers on trees, grass, shrubs and soil.
"This could mean using tile instead of concrete on driveways to help water get into the ground instead of off onto the street," Crawford said.
The Environmental Protection Agency could make Summit County a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), which would mean it would have to develop and implement a stormwater management program to reduce contamination and prohibit pollutants.
The MS4 is employed in urban areas or where there is an impacted stream. Crawford says East Canyon Creek and the Weber River could qualify as impacted streams if the EPA decides accordingly.
Part of the county's responsibility should it become an MS4 would be public outreach. Crawford noted that two concerns that would have to be addressed are those sewer systems that are not functioning properly and erosion control, stressing what she refers to as a stabilized stormwater system.
"We need to make sure that contractors and the public are informed on what a stabilized system looks like," Crawford said.
Ways that the county could reduce infrastructure costs lie in what are called low-impact development (LID) techniques. The EPA considers rain gardens, vegetated rooftops, rain barrels and bioretention facilities as examples of LID techniques.
"We would reduce the costs of detention ponds and stormwater pipes because they would be smaller," Crawford said.
Whether the county will receive funding from the EPA in completing some of these infrastructure projects is unclear, but Crawford is excited about the prospect of strongly managing stormwater quality.
"It's a great opportunity for Summit County to maintain the beauty that it has and that it offers the people that live and visit here," Crawford said.