Insights

Infrastructure Investments: Stormwater Considerations for Community Growth

Community growth is on the radar for many cities and municipalities across the country. When planning for an increase in area population, many factors should be considered to ensure there is adequate infrastructure for the anticipated growth. These considerations can range from housing to roadway capacity. However, it is easy to forget the unseen and arguably one of the most critical aspects of community growth – stormwater infrastructure.

Unforeseen Issues

If not properly planned, residential and commercial expansion can outpace the capacity of municipal stormwater systems. As land-use changes and new properties are developed, additional impervious surface areas such as roofs, roads and sidewalks are created. Water cannot penetrate these areas, and, as a result, adversely impact the municipality in several ways. The existing drainage systems become too substandard to handle the additional runoff, which leads to increasing frequency, duration and depth of flooding. In addition, the new impervious surfaces can lead to increased pollutant loading, which can adversely affect recreational water bodies and potable water sources. Unregulated development within our floodplains and floodways reduce the natural capacity to convey floodwaters and regulate flood stage. The result can impact the health and safety of the general population, have adverse impacts to fish and wildlife habitats and require costly repairs.

Avoid Costly Consequences

A lack of proper planning can lead to the expensive task of retrofitting or replacing underground drainage systems to resolve flooding and accommodate additional runoff volumes. Common expenses can include constructing new conveyance and storage systems, relocating existing utilities, traffic delays and the cost for new right-of-way. Not only can these system retrofits and upgrades be expensive, but they can also be time-consuming, require very detailed coordination, and be a source of aggravation for those who drive through these construction zones. And these costly consequences are not limited to municipalities. In addition to experiencing flooding issues, property owners and residents can incur costs related to property damage, increased flood insurance and decreased property values. The damage and suffering associated with floods contribute directly to our decisions about where to live, work and play. With some proper planning, municipalities and their residents can avoid these negative impacts.

The Recipe for Success

There are several steps that can help prepare municipalities for projected growth and evade these repercussions.

  • Stormwater Asset Management and Master Plan: City planners and consultants can support communities in developing a stormwater master plan to help predict where additional development will occur and what type of stormwater infrastructure may be required to avoid future retrofitting of a city’s conveyance and treatment systems.  
  • Stormwater Technical Manual: Communities can work with stormwater engineers to develop a stormwater management technical manual that provides design criteria according to the type of development (single/multi-family, commercial, roadway, etc.) and its location (open or closed basins and volume-sensitive basins).   
  • Stormwater Utility Fee: Municipalities can also set up a stormwater utility fee, which will provide financial aid for maintenance, rehabilitation and construction of the public stormwater pipes, pumps, storage systems and other drainage structures. Combining a stormwater utility fee with a stormwater master plan would be the most effective solution to ensure that there is sufficient funding for the infrastructure improvements needed to prevent flooding while also improving the overall water quality of the receiving systems.

Making a Case for Funding

A community’s “needs” often drive stormwater programs and funding development. Without a well-defined stormwater “need,” there will not be essential community support, and it will be more challenging to make a case. Therefore, it is vital to prepare a stormwater business plan to aid a community with the planning, design, construction, operation and financing of their stormwater management systems and program.  

Funding is available through stormwater utility fees, plan review fees, and federal and state funding opportunities such as grants, loans and cooperative programs.

Success in Stormwater for the City of Tarpon Springs

The City of Tarpon Springs, Florida has successfully managed its growth-related stormwater concerns through a stormwater capital improvement program maintained by B&N. When new issues are identified in the City, they are assessed with respect to pre-determined scoring criteria (traffic safety, emergency access, property impacts, environmental impacts and maintenance). The scores are then combined with their respective conceptual construction costs to rank the infrastructure improvements. The projects that will bring the most benefit to the community and environment with the least amount of capital cost are prioritized. As a result, the City’s improvements are appropriately sequenced, and resources are properly allocated in a formal Stormwater Action Plan. This planning has also allowed the City to capitalize on State grants in excess of $2.7M to aid with offsetting design and construction costs. 

Development plan reviews are also conducted to ensure that the proposed developments meet the City and regulatory stormwater criteria and will not cause upstream or downstream flooding. To keep the public informed and engaged, the City uses its website to educate residents on their role in protecting the stormwater system and surrounding water bodies. 

Is your community headed for growth? Contact our experts Bryan Anderson, Tampa Stormwater Director, and Mike Mills, Stormwater Service Lead, to assist you in being proactive and planning your stormwater infrastructure for long-term success.

Bryan Anderson, PE, ENV SP, Tampa Stormwater Director

Bryan Anderson, PE, ENV SP 
Tampa Stormwater Director

Mike Mills, PE, Stormwater Service Lead

Mike Mills, PE 
Stormwater Service Lead