<- Back

Social Issues With Stormwater Reuse

Social Issues With Stormwater Reuse - Bucket collecting stormwater
Cynthia Cline
Cynthia Cline
May 20, 2022

Freshwater supplies have been declining worldwide due to climate change, increasing populations, and the rapid development of new urban areas. In response, finding alternative resources for water has become a global focus of research.

One of the more promising solutions, recycled stormwater, offers many reuse options. Continuing land development contributes to water challenges by increasing the number of impermeable surfaces that block rainwater from soaking into the ground and reducing the natural infiltration that replenishes underground water stores. Urban development also generates polluted runoff that does damage downstream instead of capturing stormwater, recycling it, and reusing it in place.

Benefits of Stormwater Reuse

Bucket collecting stormwater

Reusing stormwater or recycling means reclaiming the water by using various collection devices. The rainwater is used in passive and active ways, including agriculture and irrigation, replenishing groundwater supplies, environmental restoration, industrial uses, and potable water.

Reusing stormwater serves as an enhancement and backup to existing water sources for communities, especially those with limited water supplies or restrictive water use regulations. Reusing recycled stormwater provides sustainable and secure water sources and resiliency if regular water sources become depleted.

Harvesting stormwater for reuse also improves watershed hydrology and reduces the pollutants that flow into receiving bodies of water. Collecting and recycling water can impact water conservation and cut down on energy consumption and the stress placed on existing stormwater management infrastructure.

Social Issues with Stormwater Reuse

Collecting stormwater can present challenges regarding the pollutant load and viability for different reuse scenarios. Urban cities and suburban areas contribute runoff that carries several pollutants such as pesticides, car oil, hydrocarbons, various bacteria, and heavy metals.

The types of contaminants depend heavily on the source of the runoff. These pollutants create health hazards to humans and the environment in higher concentrations.

The most critical social issues with stormwater reuse are health concerns related to human exposure to disease-carrying fecal bacteria and other water-borne pathogenic microorganisms. The hazard level from exposure depends on the type and duration of contact. Typical exposure types include the following:

  1. Skin contact through hand-watering, recreational activities, use for washing or flushing, and contact with runoff or mist from irrigation
  2. Ingesting directly via irrigated vegetables or fruits, spray or irrigation mist, or cross-contamination of drinking water with the recycled stormwater
  3. Indirectly ingesting by touching a hand to mouth after exposure to irrigated areas or from accumulated bio-pollutants in irrigated food crops
  4. Inhalation through water agitation or irrigation mist

Other social issues involve ecological risks. Using recycled water for crop irrigation can damage or kill certain plants due to high pollution concentrations such as salt, sediment, or petroleum. Excess salt in irrigation water can also impact soil quality, crowding out other minerals such as calcium and making the soil less permeable.

Why Proper Stormwater System Maintenance Matters

Collecting water

Stormwater systems with inadequate capacity, degraded rainwater collection devices, and poor or infrequent maintenance can increase social risk due to the increased probability of floods after a storm. System maintenance and degradation issues include the following:

  1. Clogs and other damage to pipes and irrigation nozzles from debris, sediment, and leaf matter
  2. Odors and released pollution from grass clippings and other decomposing matter
  3. Algae growth in water storage facilities from high nitrogen and phosphorous levels, causing clogs in irrigation equipment
  4. Iron concentrations, hard water, high salt concentrations, or anaerobic conditions result in corrosion, clogs, decreased function of the disinfection system, and other problems.

Regular maintenance procedures can manage these and other issues to maintain the quality of recycled stormwater.

Stormwater Management in Existing Systems

The way stormwater systems capture and filter water plays a large part in the viability of the recycled end product. Current water management practices involve several challenges in collecting usable water. The primary collection methods include collecting rainfall and directing it into ponds, rivers, or retention basins in the local area.

After a storm event, one of the best ways to reuse stormwater is to have a management system that keeps the water where it falls, rather than relocating it. Systems that integrate best practices use devices to improve the quality of this captured water.

Components include grassed swales, separators that remove oil and grit, vegetated filter strips, constructed wetlands, catch basin inserts, bioretention or biofiltration ponds, and gross pollutant traps. Search for stormwater management near me if your stormwater system needs maintenance, repairs, or upgrades.

Solutions for Better Stormwater Management and Reuse

Stormwater collecting system

Collecting stormwater using best practices results in cleaner or filtered water for safe use. Accomplishing this outcome makes it easier to reuse recycled water without harming humans or the environment.

System design plays an integral part in the resulting water quality, but only if the system operates as designed.

Maintenance also plays a vital role in the quality of reusable water. Inadequate or infrequent system maintenance can result in the buildup of debris, trash, sediment, and concentrated pollutants. These conditions render the water much less useful for any recycling applications.

Social issues with stormwater reuse can decrease by keeping water collection systems in good operating condition. The future of stormwater recycling also depends on resolving other significant social issues. These issues include public engagement and understanding of water recycling and pollution reduction, financial constraints and resource allocations, and problems with governance across various institutions that rely on each other’s stormwater management systems.

Different ways to harvest stormwater, increased use of permeable pavements, catch basin inserts, low impact developments, stormwater-cleaning adsorbents, and constructed wetlands offer ways to treat runoff, NS filter sewage, wastewater, and greywater for reuse.

Doing Our Part to Make Stormwater Recycling and Reuse Safe

Water sources continue to dwindle, making it essential to recycle and reuse stormwater instead of channeling this valuable resource downstream. A vital part of creating reusable water involves the ability of stormwater management systems and devices to provide adequate and effective capture and filtration.

Tune-up your stormwater management system by scheduling an inspection, maintenance, or necessary repairs. Contact a quality storm drain company with experienced engineers and staff, such as CatchAll Environmental. We have seen it all, and with our decades of combined experience, we can diagnose your stormwater system problems, work with you to create and implement a maintenance program that makes the most sense for your site and keep your system doing its job.