People and their actions are the most significant sources and causes of urban run-off and pollution. Uncontrolled or treated run-off from the urban environment and from construction activities can run off the landscape into surface waters, carrying such pollutants as sediments, pathogens, fertilizers/nutrients, hydrocarbons, and metals. Pavement and compacted areas, roofs, reduced tree canopy, and open space increase run-off volumes that rapidly flow into our waters, often causing stream bank erosion, channel incision, and sediment deposition in stream channels. In addition, run-off from these developed areas can increase stream temperatures. Along with the increase in flow rate and pollutant loads, these elements negatively affect water quality and aquatic life.
Other common sources of urban pollution include improperly sited, designed, and maintained onsite wastewater treatment (septic) systems; pet wastes; Canada goose waste and vegetation removal; lawn and garden fertilizers; pesticides; household chemicals that are improperly disposed of; automobile fluids; road deicing/anti-icing chemicals; and vehicle emissions. While there is no standard design manual for urban practices, below are some of the most common and helpful resources IDEM can suggest.
The Upper White River Watershed Alliance has developed an on-line tool to assist watershed groups with selecting urban best management practices (BMPs) for their situation. The BMP Selection Tool allows you to take into consideration factors such as pollutant treated, distance from a structure, and whether it would double as a landscaping requirement as you are choosing a BMP for a specific site.
If you are looking for BMPs for active construction, you don’t want to miss the Indiana Storm Water Quality Manual. This handbook describes mitigating practices that can be used on active construction sites and those that should be included in the final site design to control storm water run-off.
Populated areas are often covered under Rule 13, or the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Rule. This program requires identified cities, towns, and populated areas to control the quality of the run-off that enters waterways via their storm drains. To support these communities, U.S. EPA has created a National Menu of Stormwater BMPs that can be used to implement the MS4 Rule. The BMPs for the public education, public involvement, construction, and post-construction control measures may be of particular interest to those involved in watershed planning and implementation efforts.
The negative impacts of development on local streams can be somewhat mitigated by practicing low-impact development (LID) methods. The Low Impact Development Manual for Michigan includes strategies and structural practices to reduce nonpoint source pollution from new and re-development. Though originally designed for Michigan, this manual is also applicable to Indiana. This is a large file (15 MB) – be prepared to wait to download. In addition, be sure to visit our page on local ordinances.
The Wisconsin Rain Garden Manual [PDF] provides homeowners with do-it-yourself instructions for installing a rain garden, complete with grading instructions, cost-estimates, and landscaping designs for various lighting situations.