Skip to main content

Who’ll Stop The Rain (Pollution)?

A new computer model gives regulators accurate information on how proposed development projects will affect the level of nutrient pollution found in stormwater.

Rain is a good thing for our lakes, rivers and streams – it replenishes them. Duh. However, rain can also be really bad news for our lakes, rivers and streams – it can carry lots of pollutants into them. Luckily for all the naiads out there, researchers have come up with a new model to help minimize the amount of pollutants that stormwater carries into our waters.

Whenever it rains, the water (called stormwater, regardless of whether it comes from a storm) runs across lawns, parking lots, roofs, sidewalks and other surfaces on its way to the gutter – which then whisks it away to a stormwater system and ultimately deposits it into a nearby body of water. Along the way, the stormwater picks up lots of stuff, including the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. Nutrients are okay in modest doses, but if a water body gets too much it can lead to significant water quality problems, such as hypoxic “dead zones.”

As you can imagine, every time developers put up a new shopping mall, golf course or, well, anything, it can have impact the amount and type of pollutants that are being picked up by stormwater and deposited in local water bodies. Understanding the potential impacts is important for government officials that regulate construction projects, since they are tasked with making sure that such projects do not seriously harm our lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, etc. But getting a good idea of what these impacts will look like is a complex business, and existing methods for estimating  those impacts are not particularly accurate.

Now stormwater researchers from NC State University and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources have developed a new model that will give regulators accurate information on how any proposed development projects will affect the level of nutrient pollution found in stormwater. That means government officials and developers can take steps to minimize nutrient runoff from these sites.

The new model incorporates regionally-specific data, which is one reason it will be more accurate. But the model could also be modified for use anywhere in the country – as long as scientists in other regions can plug in their own regionally-specific data. Hopefully the model can help protect our waters from undue stormwater pollution, because eventually a hard rain’s gonna fall.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.