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We need storm drain solutions to prevent the wealth of problems that can follow periods of heavy weather or increased rainfall. But what if we are looking at stormwater the wrong way? What if stormwater capture could turn this nuisance into a valuable resource for businesses and communities?
If handled in the right way, stormwater can significantly benefit industries and communities that share industrial spaces. By developing a reliable system of stormwater capture, businesses can start to leverage some of the following advantages, supporting themselves, the local community, and local habitats and ecosystems.
Reduce Environmental Risk in the Local Area
Industrial facility managers need to be acutely aware of their impact on local ecosystems and habitats. These facilities may be heavily fined if they are not compliant with all relevant environmental regulations. They may also find that their corporate reputation suffers if they are irresponsible when it comes to waste.
Compared to wastewater and hazardous materials, stormwater may not rank quite so highly in terms of risk. Despite this, it is still far from risk-free, and it can transport harmful pollutants and contaminants into the nearby water table. However, by adopting a process of stormwater capture, facility managers can greatly reduce this risk — by limiting the amount of stormwater that enters the local water table or by temporarily collecting and treating water for stormwater pollutants before it is released.
Ease Some of the Burden on Stormwater Drainage Systems
Stormwater drainage systems do not have an unlimited capacity. Therefore, all of the different components of this system — from the stormwater channels on your own site to municipal drainage facilities — will carry a maximum rating. If this rating is exceeded, the drainage system could become overwhelmed, leading to significant health and environmental risks on your site and nearby.
Average rainfall across the United States varies enormously each year. For example, 30.48 inches was the average rate of precipitation across all US locations in 2020, a considerable increase from the 27.53 inches seen in 2012 — the driest year since the 1980s. However, if we look at the general pattern, we see that rainfall and precipitation levels are generally on the increase. For example, until 2014, the annual average had only exceeded 34 inches twice in a century — between 2015 and 2020; however, the country exceeded this level a further three times.
If precipitation rates are on the increase, this means more stormwater for businesses to deal with. This, in turn, means more pressure on existing systems and structures. Stormwater capture gives facility owners the chance to remove some of the burden from these water systems, helping them stay fit for purpose in the future.
Achieve a Cheaper Alternative Water Source
Stormwater can be an alternative water source — and a highly valuable one at that. Facility managers need to identify ways to recycle water and remove pollutants and contaminants so that the water can be reused on site. Cooling mechanisms and hydraulic systems are two examples of where this water can be reused and redeployed.
But, even though the water is not used for human or animal consumption, it still needs to be cleaned and treated. Studies have found that capturing and reusing stormwater is far cheaper than treating wastewater or desalinating seawater — stormwater treatment costs between $0.48 and $1.23 per m3. Meanwhile, wastewater is around $1.25 per m3 to treat, and seawater desalination comes in between $1.72 and $2.29 per m3.
Mitigate Greenhouse Gases
Water has to come from somewhere. It has to be pumped or transported onto the premises. It also needs to be treated before it arrives at the worksite. All of this contributes to the CO2 emissions and carbon footprint of the plant’s operation.
Stormwater capture immediately lessens this dependence on externally sourced water and, therefore, reduces the number of greenhouse gases produced and released. In areas of high precipitation, stormwater volumes may be very high indeed, which means facilities may find they do not need to transport or pump additional water onto the site. Even in areas with lower annual rainfall, capturing stormwater can ease water sourcing needs and reduce the strain on the environment.
Control Local Flood Risks
On a purely mechanical level, high volumes of water can cause large amounts of damage. If water is released rapidly into the local area, this can result in flooding and significant harm to local communities and nearby environments. By capturing stormwater, local businesses can remove some of this volume, making it easier for communities to avoid potentially costly flooding.
Maintaining positive relationships with the local community is a huge part of operating an industrial facility. However, if the facility contributes to flooding and other hazards due to poor stormwater management, this does not help form these positive relationships. Instead, businesses can work to mitigate this with stormwater capture.
Deliver a Water Source to the Local Community
Facility managers can go further as they seek to build lasting relationships with local community groups. Stormwater capture strategies can provide surplus water that can then be delivered to local community projects. Recaptured stormwater can be used for developing environmental spaces and carrying out rewinding initiatives, or it can be deployed as a cooling agent for municipal plants.
These actions can position your facility as an ally to your local community, building a partnership that will stand the test of time.
Rethinking Approaches to Stormwater
Stormwater does not need to be viewed as a nuisance or a potential hazard to your facility and the local area. Instead, it can be an asset. All that is required is the right approach and the right equipment — such as stormwater capture infrastructure that can collect excess rainwater ahead of treatment and storage. Of course, your storm drain solutions still have a role to play, but capture infrastructure is an important part of the setup on your site.