What is stormwater and what are Albany’s stormwater issues?
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- Last Updated: April 10, 2019 April 10, 2019
Stormwater is generated from water that falls from the sky, including rain, hail, and snow.
In a natural, undeveloped landscape, most stormwater soaks into the ground to be stored or filtered before it reaches natural waterways. In a city, most stormwater falls onto impervious surfaces (surfaces that do not absorb water) such as roads, sidewalks, rooftops, or parking lots, and it is not soaked up by the ground. This water flows across these surfaces as runoff.
Most stormwater flows from private property to a stormwater grate in the street where it drops into a pipe and is carried, untreated, to the nearest waterway. The network of stormwater pipes is completely separate from the sanitary sewer system. Maintaining this pipe network is challenging.
As runoff flows across the ground, it picks up pollutants that you can see (debris, dirt, and grease) and others that can’t be seen (fertilizers and detergents).
In most cases, everything that enters a stormwater system is carried untreated into water that we use for swimming, fishing, and drinking. Untreated polluted water has a direct impact on our waterways. You can do a lot to keep our waterways clean.
Runoff can also cause erosion and sedimentation by sweeping away and displacing soil. It can cause localized flooding when storm drains take on too much water at once. This video from another community shows flooding causing a stormwater culvert to fail.
Albany launched a monthly stormwater service charge in 2017 for single-family residences and all other properties with impervious surfaces.
The City Council chose to start small and grow the program slowly over time. Learn how rates are calculated and forecast.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently issued a statewide general permit applicable to small communities that addresses pollution in stormwater and governs discharges of stormwater. Compliance is mandatory. However, before the permit went into effect, Albany and five other Oregon communities filed lawsuits against DEQ challenging the scope of the permit. The lawsuits are pending. Learn more about stormwater regulatory requirements.