What is stormwater, and why is it so important?

Stormwater is the water that runs off of streets, parking lots, rooftops, and other hard surfaces whenever it rains. Storm drains or ditches carry run-off directly to nearby streams, without passing through a water treatment plant.  Stormwater run-off is a problem because it carries pollutants from the surrounding landscape into our waterways. Metals, salts, oil, etc. from roads and parking lots; fertilizers and other products from golf courses and landscaping; pet waste; grease, soap, and chemicals that may get dumped out the back door; anything that gets deposited on the pavement or sidewalk eventually ends up in a nearby stream.

In addition to chemical and organic wastes, tons of dirt gets carried by stormwater run-off. In fact, sediment in streams is the #1 water pollutant in Western North Carolina today.  Many pollutants also get into our creeks through unofficial connections to the stormwater system. All drains in homes and businesses should be connected to a municipal sewer system or a septic system. But many are connected instead to the storm drain pipes. These connections are called illicit discharges. They may be unintended, and can be easily fixed, once they are identified.

All these pollutants that get carried by stormwater run-off are called non-point-source pollutants, because they don’t come from any single point of origin. Non-point source pollution is the greatest threat today to our nation’s waters.  In an effort to address this prevalent source of water pollution, the Federal Clean Water Act requires local communities to manage stormwater run-off and to control non-point source pollutants. This is done through creation and implementation of local Stormwater Management Plans. Phase II of the law covers smaller cities and towns such as the Town of Montreat. As such, we have been dubbed a “Phase II Community.”

The law requires us to submit a plan and receive a state permit to manage stormwater run-off, and to report regularly to the state on our adherence to the plan. Accordingly, we developed a plan, and received our stormwater permit in July of 2005.  In compliance with the law, our plan includes a variety of strategies for managing stormwater run-off. These include:

  • Reducing run-off volume by adopting a post-construction run-off ordinance. This will encourage builders to include stormwater controls such as wetlands, grassed swales, porous pavement, cisterns, etc., in all new construction and re-development. These controls help direct rainwater into the ground, rather than running off the site and carrying pollutants. They are cost effective when included in the original construction design.
  • Controlling erosion and sediment run-off from construction sites.
  • Mapping the stormwater drainage system and developing a program to identify and correct illicit discharges.
  • Practicing what we preach by training Town staff to use pollution prevention measures in all our local government operations.

The Planning and Zoning Commission advises the Board of Commissioners on specific action steps for stormwater management. We encourage interested citizens to attend meetingS.  Special programs and projects are periodically scheduled throughout the year to restore and preserve the health of our local streams. These special programs and projects will include stream cleanups, storm drain stenciling, native species restoration, and the Earth Day Celebration activities. We encourage everyone to get involved in these valuable efforts.

Finally, we need everyone to do his or her part in reducing non-point source pollutants and minimizing stormwater run-off from their home or business. Here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Scoop up after your pet, even on the grass.
  • Make sure your septic system is in good condition, and have it maintained regularly.
  • Apply fertilizers and other garden products sparingly. If anything ends up on a hard surface, sweep it back into the grass or dirt.
  • Plant, mulch, or contain any areas of bare soil.
  • Never dump anything down a storm drain. “Only rain down the drain.”
  • Consider installing a rain garden, rain barrel, porous pavement, or other landscape feature to capture run-off from your roof and driveway.
  • Make sure your business disposes of all liquid and solid waste appropriately. Make sure dumpsters are covered, and never dump anything -- liquid or trash --on the ground or pavement.
  • If you use chemicals, oil, solvents, etc., store them in good quality containers. Only pour them in an area that has containment structures, such as a berm around the area, to catch spills.
  • If you notice an illicit discharge (something entering or draining from a storm drain that isn’t rainwater) contact the Zoning Administrator at (828) 669-8002ext. 3030 or call 1-866-STOP-MUD (786-7683).