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Stormwater runoff solutions are crucial to your business. Without these solutions, you may find that your facility is subject to fines and disciplinary action. Let’s take a look at what stormwater runoff is and examine how you can use science to avoid this risk.
What is stormwater runoff?
When there is a storm or a period of heavy rain, a large amount of water falls to earth in the form of precipitation. In the case of heavy rain, this water immediately begins to flow downhill away from the point of contact or from an area of high pressure into one of lower pressure. In cases of heavy snow or hail, solid water will build up and then thaw before flowing away down a gradient.
All of this water needs to go somewhere, and this is where we get stormwater runoff. Water builds up even in unspoiled, rural areas after heavy rain — and the natural environment has ways of dealing with this.
For example, water is absorbed into the ground, soaked up by soil and plant matter. When the ground becomes saturated, excess water runs across the surface until it reaches somewhere it can be absorbed. In many cases, it won’t be absorbed at all and will flow into a river or lake or another body of water.
Why is stormwater so problematic at your facility?
If stormwater runoff occurs naturally, why is this a problem? Why are such stringent controls placed upon stormwater runoff in the commercial and industrial sectors? There are several reasons for this.
- Industry alters the landscape.
You probably don’t have much natural earth and vegetation at your facility. As such, you probably don’t have many areas in which water can naturally be absorbed. You may instead have areas of concrete or other manmade materials that do not permit water to pass through them. This means stormwater can build up at a high volume.
- Chemicals and contamination can make stormwater runoff dangerous.
Water by itself is not too problematic. Even dirty stormwater is unlikely to cause disease or other ailments. However, this water acts as a medium through which chemicals and contaminants can travel. Many industrial chemicals are highly toxic or otherwise harmful and can be washed into the local water table where they cause damage. Fertilization agents can also cause over-fertilization, upsetting the balance of the nearby ecosystem.
- Water also causes mechanical damage.
The mechanical action of water moving over the ground or past structures causes erosion. This erosion leads to costly levels of damage over time, both on your premises and nearby.
Smart runoff solutions: Adopting a scientific approach to stormwater
Scientific stormwater runoff solutions can help your facility stay protected. Take a look at some of the methods you can use to successfully guard against stormwater runoff.
- Derive data from design storms.
Design storms are theoretical tools that help you to develop stormwater drain systems and solutions. You will need to know historical rain data, as well as the capacity of the solution you want to build. From here, you can begin to model the design storm.
Perhaps you want to build a stormwater draining system that is capable of handling 5 inches of rain over a period of 24 hours. Delve into your historical weather data and see how likely this is to occur. It could be that this is a two-year storm In this case, the stormwater drain would fail on average once every two years. There are no perfect drainage systems, so you may need to decide upon the ideal level of compromise for your system.
- Apply formula to water retention and detention.
It is necessary to treat your stormwater runoff before it is released into the local water table. If you fail to achieve this, you may end up falling foul of CDC regulations and putting public health at risk.
Water detention and retention can help you here. Water retention refers to stormwater that you keep or retain onsite. You may decide to use treated water for other purposes at your premises — for example, as a cooling agent. This can help you to reduce costs and your ecological impact by recycling water, although this adds the extra logistical consideration of storage.
Water detention, on the other hand, is short-term storage that acts as a safety measure to protect your stormwater system. These tanks will be kept empty most of the time but will begin to fill after a storm or after long periods of heavy rain. This water can then be treated before it is released via your drainage system.
You can use the following calculation to decide how much volume you need for each tank:
(The area of your premises, measured in acres x the desired amount of runoff you want to collect in the tank, measured in inches) / 12
This will provide you with the required tank volume in acre-feet.
- Understand your chemical usage.
Different types of industrial facilities will utilize different chemicals in their processes. While these chemicals should be safely stored and deployed, there is always the danger that an overwhelming level of stormwater could lead to contamination.
Take a methodical audit of all the chemicals you are using in your facility. Follow this up with a risk assessment to define how you are storing these chemicals and to analyze how this storage can be improved to prevent contamination.
- Employ reliable testing.
You need to be able to accurately test your stormwater for contamination. This is one of the responsibilities borne by businesses under the Clean Water Act.
Stormwater test kits can help you ensure that the water you are releasing is safe. It is important to adopt a systematic and methodical approach to testing so that no contaminated water enters the water table.
Science is on your side
The dangers of stormwater are largely based on the chemistry, physics, and biology of the water itself. As such, you can deploy scientific methods to mitigate these dangers. With a smart approach, you can defend against the risks that your business faces from stormwater runoff.