The Lake Champlain watershed typically receives 35 inches of rain annually, but we rarely think about where the rain goes and its impact on our watershed or the Lake. When rain falls on a field or forest, it can infiltrate (or soak) into the ground, which reduces the amount of runoff flowing across the ground surface. Runoff can pick up sediment, nutrients and other pollutants and carry them to the nearest waterway, and then to the Lake.
When rain falls on towns and cities, much of it flows off impervious surfaces like roofs, driveways, and sidewalks into the storm drain system, which in turn drains into the nearest waterway. This stormwater and can erode stream banks and increase water pollution. Research has shown us that one acre of developed land typically sends three times as much phosphorus to the lake as one acre of agricultural land. As the population within the Lake Champlain watershed continues to grow, development pressure on the landscape also will increase.
The need to install stormwater BMPs to compensate for the increasing amount of impervious surface area in the watershed is greater than ever. In order to effectively manage stormwater in developed areas, highly detailed mapping of impervious surfaces for the New York and Vermont portions of the Basin was conducted in 2013 (download shapefiles from VCGI).
In the City of South Burlington, Vermont, one in three homes has a downspout that carries rainwater from a gutter to ground level and then into the City’s storm drain system. During a heavy rainfall, a downspout can drain as much as 12 gallons of water per minute. Many communities in the Basin have similar problems. Redirecting even one downspout away from the storm drain system can significantly reduce the impact a home has on the Basin’s waterways. Try this interactive home improvement animation to learn some easy, inexpensive and even beautiful tips to reduce runoff from your property, or visit these links:
Newly released EPA report on Case Studies Analyzing the Economic Benefits of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure Programs
EPA Resource Page for Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure
Visit the Helpful Links page for additional stormwater resources.