Lake St. Clair Coastal Habitat
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Photo: Tim McCabe, NRCS

Historically, rain was viewed as something positive; farmers relied on rain for the success of their crops and rainwater recharged aquifers and the water table. Much of the water soaked gradually into the ground and was filtered through soil and plants. In the process, it was cleansed and cooled. Infiltrated stormwater moderated the flow of rivers and streams because it was released gradually throughout the year. As impervious surfaces have increased dramatically with increasing urbanization, however, stormwater has become one of the major sources of pollution degrading our water resources.

Traditional stormwater management practices have focused on directing stormwater into ditches and drains as rapidly as possible. Once water enters the drain system, it is routed directly into rivers and streams, and can cause considerable damage downstream both to riparian lands and overall water quality. Impervious surfaces add to the amount and rate of storm water entering our surface waters. They carry a number of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, oil and bacteria from animal waste. The net result is impaired water resources, increases in the frequency and duration of flood events, reduction in aquatic biodiversity, increased stream bank erosion and decreased infiltration into the groundwater table.

Current best management practices for stormwater handling focus on watershed based planning, with the goal of reproducing pre-development hydrological conditions. They generally include an emphasis on protecting critical areas such as floodplains, wetlands, recharge areas, shorelines, stream courses and open spaces during the development process. In the remaining areas which can be developed, features such as vegetated swales, water gardens, green roofs, buffer strips, permeable paving and the use of native plants can slow the movement of water across the landscape and increase infiltration on site.

For more information, see: Habitat Assessment, Section V (PDF)