WHAT IS STORM WATER RUNOFF?
Storm water runoff is water from rain or melting snow and ice that flows over land and impervious surfaces such as paved streets, parking lots, building rooftops, and compacted construction sites before discharging into local waters.
It can accumulate soil and plant debris, lawn fertilizers, pesticides, oils, grease, and other pollutants that can adversely affect water quality.
WHY IS STORM WATER POLLUTION PREVENTION IMPORTANT IN DULUTH?
The University of Minnesota Duluth discharges storm water to several different waters, including Lake Superior and to multiple trout streams.
Because Lake Superior is listed as restricted waters, “no person may cause or allow a new or expanded discharge of any sewage, industrial waste, or other waste to Lake Superior unless there is not a prudent and feasible alternative to the discharge” (MN Rules 7050.0180).
“Designated” trout streams are afforded the highest level of protection for running waters in Minnesota because trout require cold, clear, well oxygenated water to survive.
IS STORM WATER TREATED?
Storm water is not treated in the traditional sense. It is important to note that storm sewer water is different than sanitary sewer waste. Sanitary waste is the modern technical name for sewage, the combined wastewaters from all toilets, sinks, shower/tubs, floor drains, etc. These wastes are treated at a wastewater treatment plant to attain a set of legally specified water quality standards before being discharged into natural waters. Duluth’s (including all of UMD) wastewater is treated at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) facility. Unlike sanitary sewer waste, storm water from UMD drains directly into local streams and Lake Superior if preventative measures are not taken. On campus, we have more than 60 preventative storm water features in place to treat the storm water to varying degrees before it discharges to streams. Preventative measures can help water soak into the ground, settle or filter suspended solids, biologically remove pollutants, and/or slowing the rate at which storm water enters streams (which reduces the risk of stream erosion and potential for flooding). Examples of these features include rain gardens, pervious surfaces, green roofs, filtration ponds, and alternative plantings. UMD Storm Water Features Map.
WHAT IS A WATERSHED?
According to the Minnesota DNR, “Every channel (or lake) of a given stream network drains an area of land around it known as its watershed.” Click here to read more about watersheds.
Minnesota has 81 Major Watersheds. Each is defined by rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. Follow this link to find watersheds by zip code.
The main portion of the UMD Campus is in three watersheds (Chester Creek, Oregon Creek, and the West Branch of Tischer Creek) of which Chester and Tischer are designated trout streams.
A map of the three water sheds at UMD.
HOW IS UMD ADDRESSING STORM WATER RUNOFF?
According to the U.S. EPA and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, storm water runoff is a leading source of water pollution. Beginning in 2003, the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) created a program designed to address storm water pollution.
The UMD Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program (SWPPP) is designed to meet federal and state storm water permit requirements. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which is part of the federal Clean Water Act, oversees storm water discharges from municipalities and other large organizations designated as storm water generators. These are called Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s). As an MS4, UMD is required to help reduce the transport of pollutants in storm water to downstream waters of the United States.
REGIONAL STORMWATER PROTECTION TEAM
UMD is part of the Regional Stormwater Protection Team (RSPT), a coalition of local Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) and other interested agencies and organizations, to promote storm water education across the region and address shared storm water issues.
DULUTH URBAN WATERSHED ADVISORY COMMITTEE
UMD is part of the Duluth Urban Watershed Advisory Committee (DUWAC), a coalition of local MS4s and other interested agencies and organizations to promote the exchange of information and coordination of projects with a storm water component. A secondary purpose is to recognize efficiencies and opportunities to share expertise.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Community education and awareness are essential for the success of the UMD Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. Actions such as placing trash in the garbage, cleaning up after pets, and using deicing salts, pesticides and fertilizers sparingly are all ways to help protect our watersheds. Regular car maintenance can prevent oil, grease, metals, and coolants from dripping onto surfaces and washing into streams and lakes. Other measures include disposing of hazardous wastes and used auto fluids properly and using a commercial car wash or washing cars on a lawn instead of a surface that might drain to a storm sewer. To fight litter and prevent storm water pollution, student groups can schedule a stream or campus clean-up. Click here for more information.