The STOPS Runoff Act: Treating Stormwater Where it Falls

Last week, Senator Cardin introduced the STOPS Runoff Act (S. 3602) that will reduce polluted stormwater runoff from federally funded highway and road projects.

Roads are a major source of polluted stormwater runoff because rainwater that falls is unable to infiltrate these hard surfaces and soak into the ground. Instead, this water runs along the surface of the road and collects pollutants like tailpipe emissions and road salt, overwhelming our water infrastructure and flowing untreated into rivers and streams.

The bill is based on what’s already required for the construction of federal buildings, which applies a standard requiring construction to keep the site as natural as possible to keep water from leaving the site (referred to as the “predevelopment hydrology” standard).  In other words, using this standard means these projects must include technologies to infiltrate stormwater onsite so the overall amount and composition of stormwater running off of the site is the same as it was before construction.

One of the best ways to meet a predevelopment hydrology standard is through green infrastructure solutions. From rain gardens to vegetated swales, these approaches restore, replicate, and protect the natural hydrology of the landscape by infiltrating stormwater where it falls. Chicago’s Department of Transportation is already using green infrastructure technologies like permeable pavements with their Green Alleys program and bioswales in their Sustainable Streets program to minimize flooding and save energy.

With increasing urbanization and sprawl, we need a better way to manage the stormwater runoff from roads and highways that pollutes our waters. This bill is a critical step forward in addressing stormwater pollution by prioritizing green infrastructure approaches that work with the natural landscape to infiltrate stormwater where it falls.