UACES Facebook Arkansas Stormwater Education | Water Conservation, BMP, Policy, Art

Arkansas Stormwater Education

Intense rain on parking lot
When rain falls on an impervious surface like a parking lot, it flows across the surface as stormwater.

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 flowing into culvert
    Rainfall is concentrated and carried through a storm drain system directly to a creek nearby.

    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.


    What is Water Quality?

    Arkansas Watersheds

    Arkansas Water Primer Series: Water Basics

    Video Podcasts

    What is Water Quality?

    What is a Watershed?

    Protecting Water Quality from Stormwater Runoff

  • Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)
    Car driving through flooded road

    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.


    EPA Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Main Page

    ADEQ MS4 Stormwater Permitting

  • Stormwater Regulations for Construction Sites
    Concrete washout on construction site

    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

    Viewing a Construction SWPPP

    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
      Erosion Controls
           - Mulch
           - Grass
           - 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.


    Developing Your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan - A Guide for Construction Sites


    Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities (EPA website)

    ADEQ Construction Stormwater Permitting

  • 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
    Southeast Stormwater Program logo

    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.

    Water Bill Stormwater Insert

    An Assessment of Stormwater Runoff Issues in Jefferson County

    Links for Participating MS4s

    Jefferson County

    City of White Hall

    City of Pine Bluff

    University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

    Other Links

    Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service

    Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility

    Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission

    Arkansas Natural Resources Commission

    Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

    Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

    United States Environmental Protection Agency

    Keep Arkansas Beautiful

  • Northwest Arkansas Stormwater Education
    NWA Stormwater Education Program logo

    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:

    Program Planning

    - 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)

    Youth Audiences

    - 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

    Adult Audiences

    - 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

    Bella Vista

    Benton County


    Bethel Heights

    Cave Springs



    Elm Springs





    Little Flock


    Pea Ridge

    Prairie Grove




    University of Arkansas

    Washington County

    Additional Links

    Benton County Cooperative Extension Service

    Washington County Cooperative Extension Service

    Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission

    Arkansas Natural Resources Commission

    Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

    Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

    United States Environmental Protection Agency

  • 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.

    Pre-Construction Stormwater Education Program - outline

    Stormwater Management and Compliance on Construction Sites - Keys to Successful Projects

    Ground Control - Stormwater Pollution Prevention from Construction Sites (ExCal Visual's website)

  • UpStream Art Program - Storm Drain Murals
      Happy Fish
    Jeffi O'Kane's Happy Fish located on West Ave. and Spring Street in Fayetteville

    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.

    For information on this program, visit NWA Upstream Art or contact Jane Maginot at or 479-444-1755.