STORMWATER STRAIGHT TALK: Planning outdoor work

  • Published
  • 78th Civil Engineer Group

As the days get warmer, many of us start thinking ahead to outdoor home improvement projects. These projects can maintain and beautify outdoor areas, but also have the potential to cause environmental harm.

Chemicals from gardening and landscaping, or debris from yard work can be washed into the stormwater collection system. This stormwater then flows to our nearby ponds, lakes, streams, creeks and rivers. Chemicals can impact water quality of the downstream waterbodies, and excess debris can cause clogs in the system, which may lead to flooding.

Planning your projects around the weather and preparing for cleanup ahead of time, can help mitigate the risk of damaging our infrastructure and water bodies.

Before starting an outdoor project, check the weather a few days ahead of time, and again just before starting, to avoid storms during or directly following the work. Try to select a time with a low probability of precipitation. Since forecasts can change quickly, have a plan for moving project materials such as soil, fertilizer, pesticides, cleaners or construction materials to a shed or covered area should precipitation occur. Be prepared to clean up spills of excess material as soon as possible.

Before a storm or rain event, try to clean up your yard and area to prevent debris from entering the stormwater collection system. Collect grass clippings, leaves, landscaping debris and pet waste and dispose of them appropriately. Do not leave project materials outside in the path of precipitation at the end of each day. Tarps with the edges weighed down can be used to cover piles of soil or construction materials between workdays.

Keep these tips in mind to get the best forecast:

- Do not round weather forecast probabilities. We tend to see low probabilities such as 20% as a sign that we are safe from precipitation that day. Try to keep in mind that rain may still occur and plan accordingly if it does.
- Check reputable sources. Apps are designed to tell you what you want to know through a quick glance, but they may use computer algorithms that include inaccuracies or leave out details. The National Weather Service, TV forecasts and any other websites where information has been verified by a meteorologist are usually more accurate.
- Pay attention to watches and warnings. A watch means a certain type of weather is possible, while a warning means the weather is imminent. These statements are only issued when there is a high degree of confidence.

Remember, despite what any forecast may say, weather can be unpredictable, so the best way to limit impact to stormwater is to keep your outdoor space or work area clean and organized every day of the year.


Editor’s Note: Stormwater Straight Talk is a quarterly column intended to educate and inform base personnel and families about stormwater management.