How to Rethink Our Outdated Stormwater Management Solutions
The flooding that hit Houston in August 2017 is a prime example of what used to be a once-in-a-lifetime weather event, causing catastrophic devastation to communities. Yet it had been only two years since Houston’s last major flood.
Our world has become a concrete jungle. New buildings, roads, and urban developments are being constructed with nonporous materials. Concrete is the main culprit, but others including asphalt and gravel.
This “hardscape,” as it’s known, means that when rainwater falls from the sky and hits the impervious paved surface, there’s nowhere for it to go. The result is that homes, public spaces, and businesses might be victims of stormwater that has overwhelmed the city systems designed to manage heavy rain events and keep cities free from flood damage.
The Unsustainability of Our Stormwater Management Systems
It’s clear that cities like Houston can’t go on in this untenable way.
With weather largely out of our control — and cities continuing to grow — we rely on stormwater management. The problems are that most stormwater management techniques are limited, cause other undesirable problems, and are not keeping up with expanded urban development and ever more extreme weather patterns.
Typical stormwater systems are designed to divert runoff from buildings and into a body of water. This might sound like an ideal solution, but it’s not when you consider the environmental problems that stem from it.
This diverted water can be overwhelming if the volume becomes too large, and it can overpower the management system. Then, as the system diverts the water, it also transports pollutants and other stressors like heat. As it flows, it quickens, increasing the risk of erosion. All these problems from a system meant to help.
Other purpose-built solutions are failing to cope with the rising water.
Detention ponds are designed to capture water as it rushes urban areas, but they are expensive to build and maintain — if they are maintained at all. The ponds take up large swaths of land that could be used for the community. When not maintained, these bodies of sitting water create breeding grounds for mosquitoes and bacteria and can present drowning hazards.
Pervious Pavement Provides a Solution
Although many conventional solutions are lacking, it is possible to turn our increasingly impervious world into a series of systems and surfaces that make us better able to cope with extreme weather.
Permeable pavements can absorb and store excess water instead of creating dangerous runoff (the goal is zero runoff). When stormwater surges, permeable pavements can absorb and detain it immediately, because they are porous and don’t create runoff.
They also help solve the source of the problems that overwhelm most traditional stormwater management systems. They restore hydrologic balance, quickly reducing or eliminating dangerous runoff and gradually filtering the precipitation back into the ground and atmosphere.
This balance in turn removes the risk of overheating water bodies, lowers pollutant levels, and reduces the need for
detention ponds. Rather than shifting massive amounts of water into costly retention and detention ponds and overloaded city storm systems, our own driveways, parking lots, and roadways become our solution.
TRUEGRID’s permeable pavers help enable urban development to expand and benefit communities without the terrible cost of flooding. Proven to be 100 percent pervious, with a drainage capability of 800 inches per hour, this pavement system is the best sustainable way to instantly manage stormwater.
To learn more about improving your stormwater management through permeable pavers, download this whitepaper.