Arkansas Stormwater Education
When it rains, snows or sleets in Arkansas, where does that water go? Does it soak into the ground? Does it sit in puddles until it evaporates? The water actually does both of those things, but some of the water will also flow over the land surface, heading downhill to the nearest ditch or stream. This is called stormwater runoff.
In Arkansas cities and towns, the water cannot soak in through the pavement, rooftops, and concrete like it can into the soil. This means that there's more stormwater runoff in cities and that in forests and fields. The water flows off impervious surfaces such as driveways, rooftops, sidewalks, and parking lots, and usually flows straight into a storm drain. These openings along roads and in parking lots connect to pipes which carry the water directly to your local stream or lake.
- Stormwater Washes Pollutants into Waterways
Stormwater runoff can pick up and carry litter, nutrients, bacteria, chemicals, sediment (soil) and other pollutants through a storm drain system, untreated, to the nearest creek, stream or lake that we use for swimming, fishing and as a drinking water supply.
- Sediment clouds the water and makes it difficult for aquatic plants to grow; it can
destroy aquatic habitat.
- Nutrients applied in excess cause algae blooms. When algae die, they sink and decompose
in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms
can't exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.
- Bacteria and pathogens washed into swimming areas can create health hazards.
- Litter, including plastic bags, cans, bottles, and cigarette butts, washed into waterbodies
can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.
- Hazardous household products like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, and used
motor oil can poison aquatic life.
Polluted stormwater can affect drinking water sources.
The percent of impervious surface in a small watershed is a good indicator of potential water quality impacts in streams draining that area. The streams in watersheds with more than 10% impervious cover will probably have impacted water quality. The more impervious cover, the greater the potential impact on local water resources. Rather than getting rid of stormwater as quickly as possible, a sustainable approach to stormwater management involves finding ways to harvest it onsite, using it for irrigation, ornamental water features, and groundwater recharge. As the value of water is recognized, the value of natural systems to store, clean, and distribute available fresh water must also be recognized. Technology exists to integrate systems that mimic nature's capacity to store, filter, and clean water.
- Sediment clouds the water and makes it difficult for aquatic plants to grow; it can destroy aquatic habitat.
- Small changes can make a BIG difference!
Click on each of the headings below to learn more about small individual actions that can minimize stormwater pollution and protect the quality of regional water resources.
- Apply Fertilizer Wisely
If more fertilizer is applied to lawns, gardens and landscapes than the plants can use, when it rains, nutrients can wash into nearby streams and lakes and cause excessive algae growth.
Measure the area to be fertilized - application rates are usually listed in terms of lbs. of product per 1,000 ft2, per 100-ft of row, etc.
Calibrate your fertilizer spreader to ensure it delivers the correct application rate.
Apply fertilizer precisely, at the right time and in the right amounts for optimum plant growth and minimal loss in stormwater runoff.
Avoid application of fertilizers and pesticides if the forecast predicts rain in the near future.
- Apply Pesticides with Caution
Improper use or over-application of pesticides can cause environmental harm and increased regulations or use restrictions.
- Do your homework before treating pests. Identify the pest, disease, or cause of the
problem then consider an integrated approach using a combination of mechanical, biological,
cultural and/or chemical control methods.
- If using chemical pesticides, select the product that is the least toxic or that breaks
- Always READ and follow the label before mixing and applying pesticides. Measure the
area to be treated.
- Calibrate your application equipment to ensure precise treatment.
- Do your homework before treating pests. Identify the pest, disease, or cause of the problem then consider an integrated approach using a combination of mechanical, biological, cultural and/or chemical control methods.
- Harvest Rainfall with Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens
Mitigate the impact of impervious surfaces like roofs and driveways by collecting rainfall in rain barrels and rain gardens. Instead of letting it escape from your property as stormwater, the rainwater can slowly soak into the ground when it is used to irrigate plants.
- Build and install 55-gallon food grade rain barrel(s) to collect rainwater for watering
- Construct a basin-shaped rain garden planted with natives to enhance infiltration.
Learn more about how rain gardens can be a beautiful tool to minimize stormwater runoff.
- Build and install 55-gallon food grade rain barrel(s) to collect rainwater for watering landscapes later.
- Prevent Soil Erosion and Manage Yard Waste
If soil is exposed, it can be loosened by rain and the sediment can be carried by stormwater runoff to streams and lakes.
- Gardens and areas of bare soil are prone to erosion, especially on sloped land. Protect
soil by re-seeding grass, planting a groundcover or using mulch.
- Use the mulch setting on your mower and start grasscycling. Leaving the finely chopped
grass on the lawn provides needed nutrients and will not cause thatch buildup.
- Sweep grass clippings and leaves off streets, driveways, sidewalks and back onto lawns or add to a compost pile.
- Gardens and areas of bare soil are prone to erosion, especially on sloped land. Protect soil by re-seeding grass, planting a groundcover or using mulch.
- Maintain Vehicles
Washing your vehicles at home not only uses more gallons of water than a commercial car wash, but it also introduces soap, oil, and engine grime into the environment. The dirty water and soap washes off your car, flows down your driveway, down the street, into a curb inlet, and ends up in a nearby creek. Detergents in creeks, streams and lakes pose a threat to fish.
- Use a commercial car wash where the wash water is sent to a wastewater treatment facility.
- Wash automobiles, motorcycles, scooters, ATVs and mowers on your lawn to minimize
dirty, soapy water flowing into storm drains.
- Watch for stains from automotive fluids drips and repair any leaks as soon as possible.
- If you change your own vehicle fluids at home, bring the old fluids to a service facility or household hazardous waste collection center for proper disposal.
- Use a commercial car wash where the wash water is sent to a wastewater treatment facility.
- Proper Management of Hazardous Household Products
If leftover hazardous products (such as paint, motor oil, pesticides, pool chemicals, etc.) are poured out onto your yard or into a ditch or storm drain inlet, the next rain can carry the pollutants, untreated, directly to your local stream.
Use a household hazardous waste collection center near you: http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/solwaste/branch_recycling/hhwcc.htm
These centers provide safe, environmental friendly disposal and are usually free. Look for alternative cleaning products that are less hazardous to the environment
- Pick up Pet Waste
Pet waste contributes to bacterial contamination and algae growth in our streams, rivers, and lakes. The waste contains bacteria such as E. coli and fecal coliform as well as nutrients that can cause water impairments.
Collect pet waste from your yard, sidewalks and trails and dispose of in the trash or flush down the toilet.
- Maintain Vegetation along Waterways
Maintaining natural strips of vegetation along creeks, streams, ponds and wetlands slows surface runoff, improves infiltration, filters stormwater contaminants, provides food and habitat for wildlife and shades rives and streams.
- Leave a "no-mow" zone along waterways and allow the area to revert back to a native
- Re-plant native trees, shrubs, and/or tall grasses along creekside or lakeside areas
where the natural vegetation had been maintained as lawn.
Even beyond riparian areas, transforming lawn to native vegetation anywhere on your property is a great way to help mitigate the impact of stormwater and provide numerous environmental benefits.
- Leave a "no-mow" zone along waterways and allow the area to revert back to a native plant buffer.
- Pick up Litter
Litter and debris can block storm drains and can cause flooding, reduce water quality, threaten wildlife, and diminish the aesthetic and recreational value of water bodies. Litter washes down the street during a rain shower, goes into the storm drain system, and ends up in our neighborhood creeks and lakes.
- Keep a litter bag in your car and make sure that cargo in the bed of your pickup is
- Participate in local creek, lake, park or highway cleanup events.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle all materials whenever possible.
- Keep a litter bag in your car and make sure that cargo in the bed of your pickup is secured.
- Manage Stormwater at Commercial Businesses
Dirt, oil, and debris that collect in parking lots and paved areas can be washed into the storm sewer system and eventually enter local waterbodies.
- Sweep up litter and debris from sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, especially
around storm drains - do NOT hose down.
- Cover grease storage and dumpsters and keep them clean to avoid leaks.
- Report any chemical spill to the local hazardous waste cleanup team. They’ll know the best way to keep spills from harming the environment.
- Sweep up litter and debris from sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, especially around storm drains - do NOT hose down.
- Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)
To preserve, protect and improve our water resources from polluted stormwater runoff, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that jurisdictions (such as cities, counties, universities, military bases, etc.) with "urbanized areas" must obtain permit coverage to better manage their stormwater runoff.
When urban stormwater runoff is transported through storm storm sewer systems and discharged untreated into local waterbodies, it is a called a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). MS4s have storm drain systems that are separate from their "sanitary sewer" systems. Sanitary sewers carry wastewater from homes and businesses to a municipal wastewater treatment facility before being discharged into a local waterway.
To minimize the amount of pollutants carried through their storm drain systems, Arkansas MS4 operators must be permitted through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Their permits require that MS4s develop and implement a stormwater management program to address six minimum control measures that are expected to result in significant reductions of pollutants discharged into receiving waterbodies.
Six Minimum Control Measures
1) Public Education and Outreach - MS4s inform individuals and households about ways to reduce stormwater pollution.
2) Public Participation/Involvement - MS4s involve the public in the development, implementation, and review of an MS4's stormwater management program.
3) Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination - MS4s identify and eliminate illicit discharges and spills to storm drain systems.
4) Construction Site Runoff Control - MS4s and construction site operators to address stormwater runoff from active construction sites.
5) Post-Construction Runoff Control - MS4s, developers, and property owners to address stormwater runoff after construction activities have completed.
6) Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping - MS4s to address stormwater runoff from their own facilities and activities.
Extension's Role in Stormwater Management Policy
Partnerships in Benton, Washington and Jefferson Counties have been formed among the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service and city and county governments and Universities. In these areas, the Cooperative Extension Service has been contracted to carry out the Public Education and Outreach, Public Participation/Public Involvement minimum control measures along with annual municipal employee training (within the Municipal Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping minimum control measure) for local entities affected by these regulations. For more information, click on the Programs tab above.
- Stormwater Regulations for Construction Sites
Stormwater runoff from construction activities can have a significant impact on water quality. As stormwater flows across a construction site, it can pick up pollutants like sediment, debris, and chemicals and transport these to a nearby storm sewer system or directly to a creek, stream or lake. Polluted stormwater runoff can harm or kill fish and other wildlife. Sedimentation can destroy aquatic habitat and high volumes of runoff can cause stream bank erosion. Construction debris can clog waterways and potentially reach the ocean where it can kill marine wildlife and impact habitat. Construction vehicles can leak fuel, oil, and other harmful fluids that can be picked up by stormwater and deposited into local waterways.
The federal stormwater management program requires that construction activities that include clearing, grading, and excavating which disturb 1 acre or more (including smaller sites in a larger common plan of development or sale) have to be permitted their stormwater discharges
Construction Stormwater Management Practices
Erosion and sediment control at small construction sites is best accomplished with proper planning, installation, and maintenance of controls. The following Best Management Practices (BMPs) have shown to be efficient, cost effective, and versatile for small construction site operators to implement. The practices are divided into two categories: non-structural and structural.
- Non-Structural BMPs
- Minimizing Disturbance
- Preserving Natural Vegetation
- Good Housekeeping Practices
- Structural BMPs
- Silt Fence
- Inlet Protection
- Check Dams
- Stabilized Construction Entrances
- Sediment Traps
Most erosion and sediment controls require regular maintenance to work effectively. Accumulated sediments should be removed frequently and materials should be checked periodically for wear. Regular inspections by qualified personnel, which can allow problem areas to be addressed, should be performed after major rain events.
Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities (EPA website)
- Non-Structural BMPs
- Regional Urban Stormwater Education Efforts
Click on each of the headings below to learn more about Extension's urban stormwater pollution prevention outreach and education programs.
- Southeast Arkansas Stormwater Education Program
Since 2006, the cities of Pine Bluff and White Hall along with Jefferson County and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff have jointly contracted with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service through the Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission as a successful and cost-effective means of implementing public education and participation programs along with annual municipal employee training as required in their EPA Phase II Stormwater Management permits.
Links for Participating MS4s
City of White Hall
- Northwest Arkansas Stormwater Education
Since July 2004, the cities of Bentonville, Bethel Heights, Elkins, Elm Springs, Farmington, Fayetteville, Greenland, Johnson, Little Flock, Lowell, Springdale and Rogers along with Benton and Washington Counties and the University of Arkansas have jointly contracted with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service through the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.
This regional urban stormwater education program is a successful and cost-effective approach to public education and participation as well as annual municipal employee training as required in their EPA Phase II Stormwater Management permits. In 2013, the cities of Bella Vista, Cave Springs, Centerton, Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove and Tontitown joined the regional urban stormwater education program since the 2010 census data indicated they now had "urbanized area" population densities. Extension's urban stormwater education program efforts include:
- MS4 representatives serve on the NWA Stormwater Compliance Group (meet monthly)
- MS4s representatives serve on the Stormwater Education Steering Committee (meet annually)
- Both groups identify educational needs, target audiences, program methods and provide annual input/evaluation
Mass Media and Outreach
- Newspaper articles, television coverage and radio interviews
- Educational displays, staffed informational booths at fairs and festivals
- Printed fact sheets, self-assessment guides, bookmarks and stickers
- Creek signs to promote watershed stewardship
- Monthly teacher curriculum resource e-newsletters
- NWA Facebook page and pollution prevention video podcasts
- UpStream Art storm drain murals (for more information, click on the UpStream Art section below)
- Programs for youth participants in schools, 4-H Clubs, Scout troops, and summer camps
- Hands-on classroom and creekside programs emphasize the water cycle, watershed dynamics, ecosystems, and pollution prevention
- Classroom programs and teacher In-Service trainings that support the required Science Frameworks and Benchmarks in Arkansas
- Educational programs for civic groups, conservation organizations, garden clubs and municipal officials emphasize techniques to manage stormwater and protect the quality of regional water resources
- Homeowners and garden enthusiasts are engaged in building their own rain barrels to reduce stormwater runoff and enhance water conservation
- Construction site stormwater management education conducted during pre-construction meetings with participating MS4s (for more information, click on the NWA Pre-Construction Stormwater Education section below)
- Free "Greening Your Life" online course (can count toward 10 hours of Master Gardener continuing education)
- Annual MS4 municipal employee stormwater management trainings:
Conducted for planning, Engineering, Code Enforcement, Streets & Transportation, Water & Wastewater, Parks & Recreation departmental staff
Training emphases include stormwater regulations, municipal codes, construction site runoff management, municipal pollution prevention, detecting illicit discharges, and riparian management
Workshops and Conferences
- Host EPA Region 6 MS4 Operators and IECA Muddy Water Blues conferences
- Coordinate MS4 Stormwater Management, Construction Stormwater, EPA Green Infrastructure conferences
- Coordinate the "Blue Pathways" series of workshops promoting rainwater harvesting and low impact landscaping designs
Links for Participating MS4s
- NWA Pre-Construction Stormwater Education Program
In Northwest Arkansas, local municipal construction stormwater inspectors have been frustrated with stormwater regulation non-compliance and repeated conversations about violations with improper sediment and erosion control BMP selection, installation and maintenance. In response, Extension collaborated with representatives from the NWA Stormwater Compliance Group to develop a construction stormwater education program for contractors, developers, and persons responsible for inspecting and maintaining stormwater controls on a construction site.
Since every construction project must meet with municipal, county or University engineering and planning staff in person before ground is broken in a “pre-construction” meeting, it presents an opportunity stormwater management and BMP expectations are clearly defined before a project begins. A localized video emphasizing permit expectations and common BMP installation and maintenance issues is used in conjunction with a commercially-produced video on construction site regulations and BMPs, a quiz and a resource sheet.
Ground Control - Stormwater Pollution Prevention from Construction Sites (ExCal Visual's website)
- UpStream Art Program - Storm Drain Murals
UpStream Art is a unique and engaging educational program which utilizes art to communicate the function and importance of storm drains. UpStream Art gives artists the opportunity to express themselves with semi-permanent public art in the form of a small-scale outdoor storm drain mural. UpStream Art draws attention to the usually discreet concrete and iron infrastructure so that passing observers stop and think about where the water flows after it enters a storm drain. If residents understand that stormwater flows untreated to our creeks, streams, rivers and lakes, then they will be more conscious in reducing their contribution of potential pollutants that can enter those waterways. This project, along with the involvement of our vibrant art community, is unique and has a positive impact on water quality protection.