Managing stormwater for cleaner watersheds and safer communities


Resource Conservation Districts are helping their communities reduce vulnerability to stormwater damage through technical assistance and water quality monitoring.

When drought and water shortages are the norm like they are in California, rainstorms can be welcome events that fill reservoirs, provide water for agriculture, and improve streamflows. On the flip side, when stormwater is not properly managed it can cause problems for homeowners and pollute watersheds. Several Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) provide stormwater-related services to homeowners and to their larger communities.

In an undeveloped setting, the majority of stormwater soaks into the ground. In developed areas where many surfaces are impervious, stormwater is channeled into storm drains or directly into creeks and other tributaries. According to the RCD of Santa Cruz’s stormwater page, when there is a high volume of stormwater reaching the streams “these waterbodies often experience eroded banks, incised channels, loss of habitat and aquatic life, and increased flooding and prop­erty damage. In addition, stormwater carries a broad mix of toxic chemicals, bacteria, sediments, fertilizers, oil and grease.” Thus, one of the goals of a successful stormwater management plan is to “Slow it. Sink it. Spread it.” Essentially, a property is designed to allow water to be captured on the landscape rather than routed into storm drains. The RCD of Santa Cruz has a guide for homeowners to help them manage stormwater and provides assistance for implementing practices.

Through their Stormwater Monitoring Program, the Tahoe RCD is leading the scientific monitoring of stormwater runoff at eight locations around the Lake Tahoe Basin. They measure the pollutant loads reaching Lake Tahoe through the stormwater pipes and the performance of public water quality projects, such as infiltration basins and stormwater filtration vaults. Using water quality data, they can determine the effectiveness of these types of stormwater treatment actions and work with partners to make informed decisions about best management practices. Their website also gives actionable steps for Tahoe residents and visitors who want to “keep Tahoe blue”.

The Solano RCD partners with the Solano County Water Agency to provide flood preparedness education and technical assistance. They have a manual that educates community members on flood protection and preparedness. Ready for the Flood is available in English and in Spanish and can be found on the RCD’s Flood Awareness page. Homeowners who live on a flood-prone property can work with the RCD to explore funding opportunities for reducing flood risk through the Solano County Water Agency’s small grant program.

When mismanaged, stormwater can lead to pollution and property damage. However, when stormwater-friendly landscapes are implemented, they can actually be beneficial for the environment. Permeable landscaping can allow water to replenish groundwater sources. Rainwater catchments can reduce reliance on municipal water for irrigation. Data gained from community-scale water quality monitoring can lead to improvements in policy and practices and reduce pollutants from entering watersheds. Watershed health and flood safety are community-wide issues; connect with your local RCD to see what you can do to make your home and neighborhood safer and cleaner in the event of a storm.