Taking Control: Managing Your Stormwater Runoff Contribution


Urban watercyle

Yuba River, CA | Jacob Dyste

The challenges facing our rivers today are daunting; and frequently the solutions are equally so. Dam removal, floodplain restoration, and political maneuvering to protect wild and scenic rivers are not solutions that an everyday river enthusiast can relate to.

Even as a professional in river conservation, the road forward sometimes feels overwhelming. I frequently find this frustrating – what needs to be done seems so obvious, yet so out of my control. Recently I’ve been working on a project that gives me the feeling that I can be in control of the difference that is made to the health of our rivers.

While doing some clean water research the other day I realized that my home in the Sierra Nevada foothills contributes 93,000 gallons of runoff a year directly to my watershed. In other words, my neighbors and I are serious contributors to the erosion, flooding, and pollution problems in the watershed we all work very hard to protect.

So how much runoff are you contributing to your local watershed? It’s easy figure out and an easy problem to fix. First find the size of your roof, X feet by X feet and convert it to inches by multiplying by 12. Once you have the area of your roof in inches multiply it by the average rainfall your community receives every year. Then divide that number by 231 to convert it to gallons. The final step is to multiply by .9 to compensate for water lost to evaporation. 

You can also check out our innovative Green Roof Tool to see the impact your roof has in an interactive map. If you are close to the average American that number should be around 60,000 gallons a year!

Our communities are traditionally designed to send all that runoff directly to our waterways – off your roof, into the downspout, through the storm drain, and into the river.  Luckily, a lot of us have properties that are equipped handle that runoff in a more natural way. Your garden, lawn, or flower beds are the perfect place to soak up that water.

There are tons of great free resources on Google and YouTube to get you started. Start by searching downspout disconnection, rain barrels, and rain gardens. Take control and learn how to manage your runoff in a safe, efficient, and natural way by learning more about the benefits of green infrastructure.

  • Check out this great video on downspout disconnection by the Environmental Services of Portland: