Hurricane Harvey and Poor Stormwater Management Systems

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Hurricane Harvey and Poor Stormwater Management Systems

Even the best designed and flawlessly implemented stormwater management systems would have trouble keeping up with the kind of rain that fell in and around Houston during Hurricane Harvey. The storm dumped an almost incomprehensible 9 trillion gallons of water over Houston, with local rainfall totals set to breach 50 inches in certain areas.

Houston’s Stormwater Management Systems Tested

Unlike the flooding that occurred in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Houston’s flooding wasn’t caused by storm surge, breached levees or crumbling seawalls. The catastrophic flooding in Houston was caused by rainfall. Though Houston sits comfortably above sea level, its expansive sprawl means lots of pavement and few areas where rainwater can soak into the ground. Natural drainage is provided by bayous, slow-moving rivers characteristic of the Gulf Region. Because flooding is always a threat in Houston, engineers have also built sewers, drainage channels, detention ponds, and off-road ditches to disperse water. Roadways also provide a last resort for rainwater. As you can see from the pictures coming out of Houston, the roads themselves started to look like bayous.

Engineers design stormwater management systems for “maximal probably flood events” – the 25-year, 100-year or 500-year storm events that are now occurring with increasing regularity. But when it comes to storms like Hurricane Harvey, which some are calling a “million-year” flood, there’s not much that city planners or environmental engineers can do.

The Future of Stormwater Management Systems

The goal going forward is to design communities in a way such that stormwater management systems don’t have to shoulder all the burden. Simple, eco-friendly solutions that are being implemented across the globe include: installing cisterns that collect rainwater for processing and reuse, adding vegetation that absorbs water, creating local conveyance systems, and building infrastructure with new permeable materials that absorb rather than redirect water, like in China’s “sponge cities”.

SWEPE Stormwater Management Systems from T-Environmental

It doesn’t take historic storms to cause serious problems for businesses and municipalities. Stormwater pollution can result fines exceeding $37,000 dollars per day. As a part of T-Environmental’s SWEPE Stormwater System, our team will investigate your site, determine your compliance needs and recommend a cost effective solution to bring your site into compliance with all applicable stormwater regulations.

Because environmental regulations change frequently and staying compliant can become a real burden, we are often contracted to monitor our clients’ sites to ensure ongoing compliance. Visit our homepage or contact us today to learn more!

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