NEWS

Why stormwater management is important and how to get it right

20 February 2023
stormwater management

Best practice stormwater management is essential to support our health and our ecosystems. It’s not just developers and businesses that are affected by their stormwater management strategy – the local community, natural environment and its flora and fauna are all banking on a well-managed stormwater system to thrive. This month, we spoke to our resident stormwater expert, Jaqueline Woodlock – Senior Project Engineer and Acting NSW Regional Manager – on the fundamentals of great management.

What is stormwater management?

In a nutshell, stormwater management is all about “controlling the quality and quantity of stormwater runoff”, Jaqueline explains. 

However, the industry has gone through a number of big changes in recent years.

“Twenty or thirty years ago it was all ‘just get the water away from roads and houses as quickly as possible, who cares what we do with it’. Whereas now it’s more ‘let’s control how much water we’re discharging. Let’s put a lot more natural features in that consider our ecosystems, flora and fauna’,” she says. 

The management of newer estates is now focused more on integrating the developments into the environment more effectively, whilst improving the wellbeing of the local community and environment.

What mistakes do we commonly make? 

Forethought is crucial, as once a poor system has been implemented it is sometimes impossible to correct retroactively. 

Basically, the planning and design stages are where many people make mistakes when it comes to stormwater management. And of course, by not considering it in the first place.

“Regarding stormwater in general, a lot of times it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’”, says Jacqueline.

She emphasizes that this is a concern, as poorly managed stormwater can cause flooding which damages homes, risks public safety, and the environment and can be costly to repair. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the effects of climate change will likely have an impact on stormwater management in the future. Developers who aren’t factoring in climate shifts are setting themselves up for potential issues down the track.

raingarden

How can we plan better?

“The big things we look at when we’re working on new developments are keeping the water on site and discharging it slowly,” Jacqueline says. 

“This way, people downstream don’t have a sudden deluge of water coming through and that makes flooding less likely,” she adds.

Stormwater treatment assets are also important components of an effective storm management system, as they help to remove contaminants from the stormwater.

“Maintenance is also really important, especially when you’re talking about the treatments and improving the quality of water. The whole life of the system needs to be considered and maintained,” Jacqueline explains.

For example, buyer attention might initially be on board with putting in systems such as rain gardens, but these aren’t feasible within a ‘set and forget model’.

“Rain gardens have to be dug out and reset every five years and if the councils don’t have the budget for it, this wouldn’t happen,” says Jacqueline.

How everyone shares great results

Effective stormwater management when done well can create attractive and livable communities, with walkable cities and shared paths that improve the quality of life for residents. It’s definitely worth getting right. 

By managing the quality of runoff (such as removing contaminants and rubbish from stormwater), we are also protecting our ecosystems and biodiversity. One of the projects that Jacqueline was involved in was a wetland area that was home to the endangered Growling Grass Frog.

“The frog was one of the reasons it was very pivotal we maintained that waterway corridor in their habitat. We also needed to reduce the pollutant runoff to ensure it didn’t have any adverse effect on their health,” she recalls.

It’s in these sensitive areas that small decisions can be very critical, which is why great outcomes make a big difference to both habitats and communities. 

Another successful system that Jaqueline helped plan and manage involved a wetland area near Melbourne that was close to a new development. 

“The wetland retarding basin was a challenging project, there were little issues that kept arising. But that asset was a great one to implement as it added a lot of green space to the community,” she says.

It’s very rewarding when these things go well and we achieve what we intend to,” reflects Jacqueline.

While it can feel like a challenging venture with many moving parts, the payoffs for getting your stormwater management system right are numerous. What’s even better, they will be felt not just by your organization and patrons, but also have a positive effect on the community and the natural environment. 

Reach out to the team at WMS and we’ll show you where to begin, plus guide your stormwater management along the way.

Find out how we can help you achieve your goals by solving your water and flooding challenges on the Water Modelling Solutions website: https://watermodelling.com.au/.

We’d love to solve your next engineering challenge.