Stormwater Runoff - Its Problems and Its Solutions
The water that runs off the land into surface waters during and immediately following a rainfall event is referred to as stormwater. In a watershed undergoing urban expansion, the volume of stormwater resulting from a particular rainfall event increases because of the reduction in pervious land area (i.e., natural land being covered by pavement, concrete, or buildings). That is, the alteration of natural land cover and land contours to residential, commercial, industrial and even crop land uses results in decreased infiltration of rainfall and an increased rate, volume of runoff and pollution.
As development has increased, so has the problem of dealing with the increased quantity of stormwater runoff. Failure to properly manage this runoff has resulted in greater flooding, stream channel erosion and siltation, as well as reduced groundwater recharge. This process occurs every time the land development process causes changes in land surface conditions.
History has shown that individual land development projects are often viewed as separate incidents, and not necessarily a part of a "a bigger picture". This has also been the case when the individual land development projects are scattered throughout a watershed (and in many different municipalities). However, it is now being observed and verified that this cumulative nature of individual land surface changes dramatically affects flooding conditions. This cumulative effect of development in some areas has resulted in flooding of both small and large streams with property damages running into the millions of dollars and even causing loss of life. Therefore, given the distributed and cumulative nature of the land alteration process, a comprehensive (i.e., watershed-level) approach must be taken if a reasonable and practical management and implementation approach and/or strategy is to be successful.
Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act (Act 167)
Recognizing the need to deal with this serious and growing problem, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted Act 167.
Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) Overview
Under the 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments, the U.S. EPA developed new stormwater regulations to address storm water that might impact water quality. These new regulations were set up in two Phases depending upon population. Phase I, which affected municipalities with 100,000 or more in population that did not have combined sewers included Allentown and Philadelphia. Phase II of the regulation affected about 1,000 additional municipalities in Pennsylvania. Those municipalities that are located within an "urbanized area" as defined by the 1990 Census and the 2000 Census were required to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System (NPDES) permit to discharge stormwater from their municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). Berks County is included in this Phase II NPDES Permitting.
There are a number of educational items that are found on our website that you may use to increase your knowledge of storm water issues. Please feel free to use the links to various websites also for more information. If you have any questions or would like further information please feel free to call us at 610-478-6300.
The Berks County Planning Commission participates with the Berks County MS4 Steering Committee and the Berks County Cooperative Education Program.
Berks County MS4 Permit
Berks County MS4 Steering Committee