In today’s society, people are always thinking ahead about how their actions are going to affect the earth. You see reminders posted in public areas and on things like bottles and cups to get people to recycle. Neighborhoods are implementing new rules about minimizing the use of their sprinkler system, and we often hear about the benefits of driving less.
With everyone thinking about how human habits affect the earth, it’s incredible to think that we might have missed something. Nearly everything seems to be going green these days, but it’s all too common to take things for granted that are actually hurting the planet. One of those things is driveways. Paved driveways can contribute to stormwater pollution and, in turn, create problems for the local environment.
What Is Stormwater?
Before you can fix a problem, you need to be able to identify and clearly define it. Pollution is something everyone can agree is bad for the planet, but not everyone has thought of how stormwater relates to it. It’s not typically a topic that comes up in science classes or conversations.
Stormwater is an abnormal amount of surface water due to heavy rain or snowstorm. It’s not just rain hitting a window during a thunderstorm. Stormwater is the water that runs down driveways and accumulates in puddles or low-lying areas. The same goes for snow that melts and collects when the weather warms.
How Do Driveways Factor In?
Driveways in and of themselves aren’t a bad thing. They increase a home’s curb appeal, and they’re a smart investment for homeowners since asphalt lasts 12-35 years. Driveways rarely have to be replaced, and they need little upkeep to look nice and maintain their quality.
The problem with stormwater relates to driveways in a couple of different ways. Driveways that are on an incline act as a slide, sending all the stormwater to the same place, which could be local streams and creeks. If the only thing sliding down a driveway is rainwater or melted snow, that’s not bad. It’s harmful if that water contains pollutants, which it often does.
Potential Pollutants and the Harm They Cause
Developed land comes with many different pollutants that can harm the local environment. Most people treat their yards with chemicals like fertilizer and pest control, which sit on the ground until a strong storm comes through. There’s also pet waste to think about and oil that leaks from cars that sit out over an extended period. All these things get carried away with stormwater and pollute the local rivers and streams, harming wildlife and the surrounding vegetation.
Solutions to Stormwater Runoff
You can’t stop stormwater from running down a slanted driveway. If a driveway sits on an incline or near a river, you can’t do much to change that. However, there are some easy tactics to prevent stormwater runoff that everyone can use.
Using less yard treatment chemicals is always helpful, as is washing your car at a carwash instead of in your driveway. Carwashes have drainage systems in place where pollutants like car soaps and oil don’t get released into the environment. Put dog waste and cigarette butts into the trash so they don’t go into the rivers where drinking water is pulled from, and keep your driveway and sidewalk swept as much as possible.
Driveways on their own aren’t necessarily harmful, but they do create a pathway by which stormwater can reach local streams and pollute them. Making an effort to look at your driveway a little differently and change up some of your habits, though, can help protect the environment.