Category Archives: Stormwater Runoff

Timing is everything, and today’s heavy rains reminded us all of the truth behind this simple maxim.  A College of Charleston weather station has already recorded 3.27 inches of rainfall today.  The heaviest of these rains coincidentally came in the early afternoon, just as high tide reached its maximum height.

For anyone who has been in the Lowcountry for at least one heavy rain, it is no surprise that Charleston’s roads and streets become rivers and creeks, especially at high tide.  With nowhere to drain, excessive stormwater collects from impervious surfaces such as roofs, cars, parking lots and driveways and floods our streets, only to wreak havoc on your suped up lowriders and sports cars.

With waders on foot, I set out to capture some images from today’s flooding.  Hit the picture below to view the slideshow…

Flooding on the corner of Fishburne and Killians Street in downtown Charleston.  Photo: Cyrus Buffum

Flooding on the corner of Fishburne and Killians Street in downtown Charleston. Photo: Charleston Waterkeeper

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified stormwater runoff as one of the leading causes of pollution in our nation’s waterways.  As water falls from the sky it collects just about everything in its way before draining into our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.  That means that whatever oils drip from our cars, whatever pesticides or poisons we put on our lawns and whatever dog poop we leave in the park, will eventually make its way into Charleston Harbor.  It is essential that we are all conscious of our actions on land and recognize how these acts will affect the health of our waterways.

Stay dry…

We all know that Charleston is often referred to as the Lowcountry for its characteristically low lying coastal topography. This nickname though comes with some implications: we are more susceptible to damage from rising seas, storms, and flooding. The affects of flooding can be seen after every rain, especially during a high tide. It is not rare for streets downtown to become impassible, for storm drains to spew water in the opposite direction, and for the occasional kayaker to find herself paddling at the intersection of Church and Market Streets. Aside from the obvious nuisance flooding creates, there is an even more serious problem it creates…water pollution.

Stormwater (or percipitation in general) that does not soak into the ground runs over impervious surfaces (streets, roofs, cars, etc.) and makes its way downstream by way of a storm sewer system or more directly by running off into lakes, rivers, or estuaries. In its path, this stormwater collects chemicals and pollutants such as oil, gasoline, pesticides, and fertilizer. This is an obvious problem as it becomes a huge contributor to a degradation of our water quality. In Charleston especially, stormwater has an even longer opportunity to pick up pollutants and distribute them into our waterways. Beacause of the amount of flooding that occurs, water that would have otherwise run off a surface (and still collected a huge amount of pollutants), sits stagnant for a longer period of time thus becoming more and more contaminated.

After work yesterday I headed over to Vickery’s on Shem Creek and noticed some flooding in the parking lot that was pooring over from the adjacent marsh. What I saw was a bit disturbing. All of the trash and contaminants that were at one point moderatly contained within the parking lot had been collected by the flood waters and were now floating in our marsh. The video below shows the obvious debris that is picked up by flood waters and redistributed into our waterways…

The solution to this? Pick up your trash and be conscious of what might end up in our water after a heavy rain or a high tide…otherwise, stormwater runoff and flooding will pick it up for you. We all need to take part in protecting and preserving our most important and essential resource, our water.

Remember, take PRIDE, take RESPONSIBILITY, take ACTION.