By Cindy Kerschner
The Times News, © 2003

September 13, 2003

“Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day,” is a familiar children’s song. But where does the rain go? On average, a rain storm produces 2-inches or less of water per 24 hour period. Doesn’t sound like much water, but consider all the impervious surfaces you have on and around your property: sidewalks, driveways, your street, parking lots and your roof. These solid surfaces won’t allow water to seep into the ground.

From that same storm, your roof alone will produce about 600 gallons of storm runoff. Pretty impressive, but what happens to all that water? Most of that water is channeled by down spouts and yard slope to run into storm sewers along with water from surrounding areas.

Contrary to popular belief, much of this water goes directly into nearby streams and rivers and not sewage treatment facilities. This is where the problems come into play. First, we lose the opportunity to have this precious resource replenish our groundwater supply.

Equally important, what the water collects along the way also winds up in the ecosystem. Motor oil, grease, pesticides, fertilizer, sediment, litter, bacteria, heavy metals, acids, alkaline substances and more go along for the ride. These materials can endanger aquatic life, cause erosion and clog our waterways.

How can we retain and use storm water?

Redirect drain spouts to a rain barrel for later use in the lawn or garden. Remember that rain water is not safe for human or pet consumption.
Install a French drain to spread water out and over a lawn or landscaped area. Channel water to an infiltration trench or low depression where water can soak into the ground.
Instead of concrete, consider paths made of mulch, crushed stone, or other permeable materials.
Add organic matter like compost to help your soil improve absorbability.
What can we do to help keep storm water clean?

Dispose of litter properly.
Keep storm drains clear of debris, dirt, sand, silt, and wastes.
Catch fluids and recycle or properly dispose of them when changing car oils, antifreeze, and other fluids. Participate in an oil recycling program. Contact us for more information on recycling vehicle fluids.
Wash cars or other greasy equipment at facilities, such as commercial car washes, that collect wastewater and discharge it into a sanitary sewer where detergent and oily pollutants can be removed at sewage treatment plants.
Reduce or eliminate chemical pesticides and fertilizers for landscaping and lawns.
Plant around or cover areas prone to erosion with mulch or stone to reduce the chance that loose dirt, soil, and sand will be carried away by storm water runoff.
Clean up and properly dispose of pet feces.
Following these practices helps preserve and protect our water supply. So next time it rains, think of this Proverb from Cameroon, “Rain does not fall on one roof alone”.

We would like to hear your comments, questions or ideas for future articles. The Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer organization. For more information or to get involved, call (570) 645-8597, contact us at http://carbonwaters.org/, or write to P.O. Box 104, Palmerton, PA 18071. See links on this page.

Sources: United States General Services Administration, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) fact sheet http://hydra.gov/pbspt/ call-in/factshet/1198/11_98_10.htm Storm water management: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),http://www.epa.gov/ reg3p2p2/stormwater.htm