How to Update Your Stormwater Management Tactics
The biggest problem posed by new construction is a little ironic. New developments and urban sprawl continue at a record pace, but the problem isn’t that cities are changing — it’s that they are changing in the same old ways.
No matter how innovative our new buildings are, we’ll face a mounting danger from flooding unless we change the way we pave our surrounding surfaces.
In U.S. cities, 40 percent of surfaces are impervious. Concrete and asphalt typically are the materials of choice. They are slabbed and rolled over the earth, creating an impenetrable, impervious layer. When heavy rain arrives, it has to go somewhere. Impervious surfaces force water to run off in rising levels around our homes and businesses, causing costly damage.
We’ve seen traumatic damage again and again in cities such as Houston, and the rain is not letting up. Since 1991, in fact, heavy rainfall has steadily and increasingly surpassed predictions.
It’s time we stopped paving in the same old ways and we changed our mindset about the way we manage flood risks.
How fresh tactics in paving can help our cities
Stormwater doesn’t have to disable our communities. Permeable pavement systems allow stormwater to be absorbed, detained, and re-released into the environment in a healthy, controlled way.
The beauty of permeable paving is that it imitates the land’s natural hydrology. Before communities were covered in concrete, water quickly absorbed into the ground or naturally redirected. Permeable pavers mimic that organic system. They enable rainfall absorption at more than 800 inches per hour, taking the pressure off manmade structures and evolving to the shifts of the climate — all while performing the same functions as concrete or asphalt.
The technology is pretty simple. Permeable paving systems are structured with open cells that are filled with materials — such as grass or hard angular aggregates — that have high ratios of void space to surface area. As rain falls onto those pavers, the water will drain and absorb into the sub-base below and will infiltrate into the soil if it’s porous. In areas with nonporous soils, the water will be detained and slowly released.
The idea of the permeable paving system is to stop or reduce runoff and divert it from valuable structures, property, and human life.
4 steps to rethink paving in your neighborhood
Permeable paving systems will save the homes and businesses in your neighborhood from suffering the same fate every time a major storm occurs. With people increasingly being displaced and livelihoods increasingly being ruined by storms, it’s time that we confront the outdated way we develop our communities. Follow these four steps to create safer and more natural stormwater management systems in your area:
Step 1: Examine the problem in your area.
Excess runoff caused by impermeable surfaces has many costs — and some are not immediately visible. Though flood damage from major storms is immediately visible and obvious, storm repercussions like erosion and runoff pollution also wreak havoc, though in less immediate ways. Take stock of the unique way that runoff effects your community so that you can find the right paving solution and make the most high-impact change.
Step 2: Make an economic assessment.
Assess how the cost of flooding compares to the cost of transforming your paving system. These are the three metrics to note in order to make an economic assessment:
- Paving construction costs. How much will it cost to install permeable pavers across the surfaces you’re responsible for?
- Land utilization. What other adaptations will you need to make in order for the new solution to function? Will you need a separate detention pond, for example, if you chose an impervious surface material?
- Long-term costs. How much will it cost per year in maintenance and impervious cover tax?
Step 3: Identify your performance requirements.
You might live in an urbanized zone with heavy traffic or frequent trade deliveries. Different varieties of permeable pavers will hold up to high traffic, even with commercial construction machines in excess of 130 tons. If your area is relatively residential, other available paving systems will provide the best value for your needs.
Step 4: Choose a system that suits you.
Armed with the answers from your investigations in the previous steps, you can now decide which paving solution will work best in your community. Compare and contrast the systems available according to your needs and goals. Find out more about TRUEGRID Paver options here.
We all have a responsibility to maintain the places we live and work. We might not be able to control the weather, shift tides, or divert storms, but we can adapt the way we develop our precious spaces in order to care for them and protect them into the future.