In Denver, our spring tends to be full of snowstorms or precipitation events with a fast melt time, leaving high volumes of water stuck on our urban impermeable surfaces, and unless properly managed, sub-urban flooding and highly polluted water can threaten our cities and neighborhoods. Stormwater management is crucial in urban environments like the city of Denver because precipitation cannot naturally filter through soil systems like they would in natural environments. These impermeable surfaces create an environment in which precipitation accumulates pollutants that can adversely impact societal, ecological and city health/well-being. Furthermore, since stormwater goes directly back into the nearest body of water, the health of our rivers and streams can be negatively impacted by improperly managed stormwater. Therefore, the main purpose of stormwater management is to separate the pollutants from the water before reintroducing that water back into the natural systems (rivers, streams, etc.), while also controlling the direction and flow of stormwater – to prevent flooding or detrimental erosion events.
In urban areas, stormwater is most likely going to be contaminated by bacterial pollutants like E. Coli, which is caused by fecal matter entering waterways. As E.Coli levels have risen in the South Platte River in recent years, proper/effective stormwater management becomes even more crucial in order to conserve and restore the South Platte River, and all the species and urban/ecological systems that rely on the health of our River. However, fecal matter is not the only pollutant to be concerned with when it comes to stormwater contamination.
As stormwater flows across the surface, it can pick up and carry with it pollutants that could end up in our waterways – unless properly managed. This can be composed of fecal matter, as well as pesticides/insecticides/fertilizers, debris, sediments, and other things that can cause damage to environments. The city and county of Denver utilizes stormwater management techniques that are naturally inspired; like retention ponds, grassy swalls, and other types of buffers. As water quality and environmental sustainability becomes more of a necessity, Denver aims to utilize green infrastructure (GI) in the stormwater management plans moving forward.
In 2020, the city of Denver set forth 24 sustainability goals in 12 related areas, one of those areas being water quality. The goal is to make all rivers, lakes, and streams swimmable and fishable. In order to achieve this goal, stormwater management must continue to innovate and create sustainable ways of managing stormwater and all weather events. However, it is not all on DOTI to manage stormwater and improve water quality and health of our rivers and streams. Everyday actions and making environmentally conscious choices can help reduce the amount of pollution and debris that stormwater can collect throughout our city. Check out these infographics below to see other ways to support proper stormwater management and protect the beautiful South Platte River!