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Stormwater Management Guide for Apartments

Stormwater Management Guide for Apartments
Cynthia Cline
Cynthia Cline
November 17, 2023

Stormwater management continually evolves, and specific properties such as apartment complexes can benefit from creative solutions to stormwater management issues. Urban living typically involves dense buildings with multiple apartment buildings to accommodate the city's residents.

Effective stormwater management for these complexes is crucial to keeping urban living sustainable. Limited space and other challenges call for strategic methods to ensure responsible water practices and lay the foundation of a stormwater management guide for apartment buildings.

Start with a Site Assessment

To identify an apartment complex's vulnerabilities and areas where runoff tends to gather or pool, perform an assessment of the area's existing stormwater management system. When the property was developed, it probably had a network of storm drains and pipes installed to carry stormwater away from the property, which can likely be improved upon with additional stormwater management techniques.

Adding Permeable Surfaces

To absorb runoff, consider enhancing the apartments' stormwater management by strategically placing permeable surfaces, such as pavers or grass. Adding small patches of grass in between or in front of buildings addresses the challenge of limited space many apartment complexes face.

Locating permeable surfaces in runoff-prone areas maximizes the effectiveness and water absorption on the property.

Add Green Infrastructure

Green grass infrastructure

One of the basics of stormwater management for apartments involves using natural “green” methods to manage stormwater on-site instead of strictly relying on a drainage system to remove all the runoff from the property. Features such as rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement and green roofs manage stormwater naturally by slowing down the water flow and letting it absorb into the earth. This process naturally filters pollutants instead of washing them into local streams and rivers, reduces total runoff, and helps replenish local groundwater stores.

Detention and Retention Basins

Regulate stormwater flow on the apartment property by implementing detention and retention basins or ponds. A detention basin holds or detains water temporarily and then releases it to moderate the volume of stormwater and prevent flooding downstream.

Retention basins catch and store rainwater permanently so it can infiltrate the earth and recharge groundwater. Both of these basins can integrate native grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation to enhance the water quality and provide a habitat for local wildlife.

Stormwater Maintenance Plan

Inspecting basin

A stormwater system cannot do its job effectively without regular maintenance. Develop a detailed, comprehensive stormwater management plan for apartments that includes regular inspections, necessary repairs, and stormwater infrastructure cleaning.

Tasks typically involve removing overgrown vegetation from detention basins, clearing trash, sediment, and other debris from storm drains and catch basins, and cleaning leaf litter from roofs and gutters. Regular maintenance prevents garbage and organic matter from clogging the storm drain system during a rain event, which reduces the risk of flooding and other damage to the apartment property.

Stormwater Management Regulations

In addition to implementing a custom-tailored stormwater management plan, apartment property managers should inform themselves about federal, state, and local regulations that dictate how to manage stormwater runoff from their property. It is essential to comply with these mandates because environmental agencies can levy expensive fines for non-compliance. The regulations change over time, so it pays to revisit them periodically and ensure that the property remains compliant.

Consider Vertical Challenges

Apartment buildings have a unique challenge in that they are often much taller than individual homes, presenting some additional stormwater management aspects.

Water flow and drainage capabilities must be increased to accommodate the additional runoff from the upper floors. Buildings may require additional rain gutters and other drainage components to handle runoff and prevent flooding in residents’ balconies, first-floor apartments, and other areas.

Structural Limitations

Apartment with green infrastructure

Apartment buildings may have limitations on applying certain stormwater features that property management intends to add post-development. The lack of space makes it challenging to add rain gardens, detention basins, and other areas designed to let rainwater soak into the ground.

The need for large parking lots to accommodate all residents’ vehicles contributes to impermeable surfaces generating large runoff volumes that often carry oil, hydrocarbons, and other pollutants and end up in local water bodies with minimal treatment or filtering. Apartment building roofs may also need retrofitting for green roofs due to the additional weight and need for support.

Sharing the Responsibility

Stormwater management for apartments differs from the living experience of individual home residents because of the shared spaces and responsibilities that come with keeping the complex in good order. Coordinated efforts can engender a sense of community, which helps residents support the actions of property and HOA managers' activities in managing stormwater.

Rainwater harvesting is a conversation that comes up frequently with apartment dwellers who want to take shared responsibility for the property. Residents can collectively contribute to conserving water by installing cost-effective rainwater harvesting systems and by participating in community education on the benefits of managing and keeping pollutants out of stormwater runoff.

Empower Your Apartment Community

Property and HOA managers and residents can benefit from working together to effectively manage stormwater on an apartment property. Adopting improved management practices contributes to a healthier environment and enhances the quality of life within your apartment complex.

When you need the expertise of a professional team to help maintain your stormwater system, respond to emergencies, and ensure that you remain compliant, look no further than the experts at Catch All Environmental. We aim to be your one-stop shop for stormwater system management. Call us today to see how we can help.