Community Agriculture Alliance: Why stormwater matters
February 14, 2013
Stormwater is the latest hot topic in Steamboat Springs. The city recently presented a draft Stormwater Master Plan completed by consultant Short Elliot Hendrickson. A copy of the plan is available at http://www.steamboatsprings.net. Under the Departments tab, select Public Works and then Engineering to download the plan.
The Public Works Department presented the draft plan at an open house in early February and is seeking interested citizens to serve on a task force that will guide the plan's implementation. Download the task force application at the same address. Applications are due Feb. 22.
With momentum growing around the master plan, it's important to understand the big picture. Stormwater is precipitation that falls onto impervious surfaces, such as roadways, driveways, parking lots and rooftops. Instead of being absorbed into the ground, the water flows over these surfaces and makes its way to the drainage system and into the nearest water source. In Steamboat Springs and surrounding areas, most stormwater ends up in the Yampa River. As our community grows, we create more impervious surfaces thereby directing more stormwater to our waterways.
As stormwater travels over impervious surfaces, it accumulates particles, sediment, chemicals and other pollutants. Common pollutants include paint, fertilizer, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, soil, metals, trash, leaves, yard waste, animal feces, herbicide and oil. Stormwater carrying these pollutants enters drainage systems and flows to natural water sources untreated and can affect recreation, plants, wildlife and fisheries.
The oil leaking from a car onto the road, for example, eventually will end up in the Yampa River. Extra fertilizer on roses in the spring will wash into the river, as well. Not only do we play in the Yampa River, it also provides critical riparian habitat for a host of plants and animals.
The decisions we make as a community have striking impacts on the purity of stormwater and, ultimately, the purity of our waterways. The type and quantity of products used, methods of cleanup and methods of disposal are things to consider when addressing stormwater. Activities we engage in affect stormwater. By better understanding those effects, we are better prepared to make a positive impact.
Morgan Moss is program coordinator for Yampatika. She can be reached at email@example.com.