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Raleigh, NC Sees Benefits of Storm Water Management

Raleigh is being recognized for its proactive approach to managing storm-water runoff. Photo credit: kconnors/
Raleigh is being recognized for its proactive approach to managing storm-water runoff. Photo credit: kconnors/
August 12, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina's capital city is becoming a national model when it comes to storm-water management.

For the past 25 years, Raleigh has created and operated programs that work to properly handle the influx of storm water during heavy rains and reduce any negative impact on streams or wildlife. Kevin Boyer, a project engineer in the city's Storm Water Management Division, said it has paid off in big dividends.

"Instead of trying to get it off site as quickly as possible, we're trying to hold it up on site and soak it into the ground," he said. "We like having healthy streams and, to some extent, cleaner drinking water."

Raleigh is working to create green infrastructure that encourages water to soak into the ground naturally with the use of permeable pavers and planted areas to avoid runoff. Raleigh has programs that provide storm-drain maintenance and street cleaning for approximately 1,000 miles of city streets. The city also has regulations that shape future development and how storm water is managed on the property.

While a heavy rain seems like just an inconvenience to most, said Peter Raabe, North Carolina conservation director for American Rivers, the surge in water can create big problems for streams and waterways if it's not funneled and directed in a way to avoid contact with pollution.

"When it's raining, that water is hitting the ground," he said, "and if that ground is not a tree or soil, it's going to collect and run off, and as it collects, it's going to pick up a lot of pollution, and that pollution runs into the drains we see in our streets - and then that is funneled almost directly into our streams."

Unlike Raleigh, Raabe said, many other cities view storm water as something to discard.

"The biggest problem that we see in other cities is that they see storm water as a waste product," he said, "and it puts it into a pipe, funnels it directly to the stream and makes it impossible for those streams to maintain life."

Aside from proper drainage systems, cities and citizens also can help to protect streams from storm-water pollution by installing rain barrels and planting garden beds to absorb runoff.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC