Stormwater Runoff – What does that look like?

By: Angela Danovi, Beaver LakeSmart Coordinator

Have you ever taken the time to step outside during a rain event and see where the stormwater on your property flows?  It’s a good exercise to do because you learn about the direction water flows, where water concentrates on your property, and where your water converges with your neighbors or enters a storm drain.  This information is helpful because if you want to implement Best Management Practices to protect water quality, you need to know where the water flows that you are dealing with and where you might get the best impact and water protection.

During the recent rain event as Tropical Depression Bill came over Northwest Arkansas, I took the opportunity to follow the flow of water at my apartment complex and record what was happening.  The purpose was to see how the water was flowing and document it to share as an example for property owners.  There was nothing legally improper at my apartment complex, but there are certainly opportunities to decrease runoff, improve infiltration, and have an overall improvement on water quality.   I hope this blog will show you some things to look for when you walk around your property and evaluate it for possibilities to implement best management practices.

Photo 1: A rainwater downspout from a house

This is a typical setup of a downspout.  Water from the roof is sent on a downspout and out onto the ground.  The force of the water had pushed the black piping at the bottom off of the end of the downspout and the gravel has started washing away with the water.  The water coming off the roof here, goes into the gravel and quickly onto an impervious side walk where it quickly picks up speed and converges with other water water already flowing across the impervious walkway as it heads towards the curb and the nearest storm drain.

20150618_192647A water friendly alternative to downspouts releasing water onto gravel or impervious areas is a installing a rain barrel, installing rain gardens, or even directing the flow to a grassy area.


Photo 2: Rainwater flowing onto an impervious walkway:

Walkways are nice in our yards because they connect our driveways, parking areas, and other areas that we may readily access back to our homes.  However, impervious walkways serve as a conduit for quickly moving rainwater to the nearest creek or stream, bypassing infiltration that is critical for reducing flooding and improving water quality.

20150618_190953[1]A water friendly alternative to impervious walkways that connect to homes or driveways is to disconnect the impervious surfaces.  Can you install a stone walkway with gravel or grass in between the stones?  Can you install grass pavers?  Is there some place you might be able to disconnect your impervious walkway from the adjoining impervious surface?  There’s no right answer for everyone on this issue.  But learn about some permeable alternatives to a traditional concrete drive.  They can improve the aesthetics of the front of your home and will make you be a water smart homeowner!



Photos 3 & 4: Water flowing through backyards

This is the result of water flowing overland, concentrating, and heading to the nearest stream.  This water was flowing through backyards.  This situation occurs because water becomes concentrated and starts flowing overland quickly, rather than soaking in.  This picture is taken just before it drops underground and into a stream that was channelized and put under the parking lot.  The water collected from the parking flows into a storm drain at this location and all of the water flows underground in a channelized stream.



20150618_191429The situation occurs even in grassy areas because this water did not have an opportunity to infiltrate.  Downspouts, impervious surfaces, and poorly contoured yards concentrate water and cause it to flow off quickly.  If this water had the opportunity to infiltrate, you would not have this dramatic of a runoff situation.  If you have rills or small valleys on your property, you might choose to leave the grass higher in those areas.  That will increase infiltration and slow down runoff.


Photo 5: Water flowing into the Storm Drain

Water the flows into the storm drain comes from rain water that flowed overland and was directed to the stormdrain.  Curbs effectively channelize water, increasing its runoff.

20150618_191409A water smart alternative to curbs is to remove curbs.  Water will have a wider area to flow and will not become confined against the curb.  Also, you want to find ways to slow down and divert stormwater before it gets to the storm drain.  If you have a drain on your property, is there a place to install a raingarden before the water gets to the storm drain?


These are just a few photos to show you some of the things you are looking for when you evaluate your home for opportunities to reduce runoff and increase infiltration.  The next time you have a nice rain, go ahead and take a walk!  It’s fun and you can learn more about how water is acting and flowing on your property.  I suggest taking photos so that you can remember what you saw and you can use them when planning any best management projects.  Protecting our water resources starts with you!  Together we can make a difference at protecting our water resources now and for the future.




2 thoughts on “Stormwater Runoff – What does that look like?

  1. Maggie Allen

    It’s really nice actually seeing pictures of what stormwater runoff looks like. To be honest, my front yard looks pretty similar to the last photo with the storm drain. When it rains really heavily, I’ve noticed that that the drainage sometimes doesn’t keep up. I had no idea that you could also install a raingarden to help manage everything. Maybe I’ll look into that as an option for my own yard!

  2. Zequek Estrada

    Taking a moment to check were the stormwater on my property flows isn’t something I’ve tried before. I honestly hadn’t thought it mattered. However, it does seem like it could be beneficial to know what it’s like.

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