You are told in television weather forecasts when and where it is going to rain or snow, but not so much about what happens to the rain or snow after those events. However, what happens or doesn't happen to the rain or snowmelt also known as storm water is making a huge difference in our lives every day here in the Mahoning Valley.
When rainfall or snow melt comes in contact with pavement or roofs or other impervious surfaces, this water also known as storm water has nowhere to go but to run off on top of those surfaces directly into streams or into "storm" sewers that carry it away to streams. When there is a lot of water runoff, such as after a big rain storm or snowmelt, we often witness streams that usually carry only small trickles of water turn into raging rivers of storm water runoff, often flooding roads, homes, etc., as the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the stream and overflows the banks of the stream just like an overflowing bath tub.
But the amount of runoff isn't the only problem. When storm water runoff travels - after large rain events or when snow melts rapidly - it is traveling at a high speed and that force enables the flow to pick up pollutants and erode bare soils, carrying them away only to be deposited into larger streams, rivers, ponds and eventually to Lake Erie or the Ohio River, both very important sources of fresh water for drinking and for recreation.
This problem of excessive and polluted water runoff has increased with the increase in impervious surfaces that now cover vegetated landscapes where the soil once acted like a sponge soaking up the excess water from rain and snow melt, keeping runoff and flooding and water pollution to a minimum. It now takes smaller and smaller-volume rain or snowmelt events to create pollutant-carrying flood waters.
This development of impervious surfaces and its effect on storm water volume and water quality especially in highly populated areas where there is a concentration of many miles of roads, acres of parking lots, and multitudes of industrial and home sites each with driveways and roof tops has caused Congress to enact federal laws requiring each state to regulate storm water management of individual communities.
These regulations guide communities on how to handle the flow, storage and quality of storm water as it passes across the landscape in that community so as to minimize flooding and minimize water pollution.
Citizens like you can play a big role in your community's efforts to reduce the effects of storm water pollution. Knowing where the water goes and what you can do reduce the volume, speed and quality of water leaving places you live or work is easier than you think. We first must figure out which watershed we live in.
Be a conservation crusader today and follow this link to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Earth Resources Information Network (ERIN) website to locate the watershed you live in. In the report, you will be able to learn about the land uses, water resources, water quality as well as organizations such as your local county Soil and Water Conservation District that can help you learn more and get involved. Visit or call 330-637-2046, Ext. 101.
Mike Wilson is the executive director of the Trumbull Soil & Water Conservation District and is a Member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau.