Stormwater is the rain water and snowmelt that drains off rooftops, yards, streets, and parking lots in the Village of Hales Corners. Have you ever wondered where this water goes? Some evaporates, some soaks into the ground, and the rest runs off the land into storm sewers, ditches, and small creeks. In the Village, all of these waterways eventually drain into the Root River, which empties into Lake Michigan.
Sounds like a pretty good system, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, storm sewers and other drainage ways are good at moving water out of the Village to prevent most floods. Stopping floods is a good thing, especially when its your street or basement that stays dry. Unfortunately, there is more to managing stormwater besides flood prevention. Keeping stormwater clean is another important goal, and this is where the system needs some help.
Rainwater itself is mostly clean, but when it washes over a city, it picks up a nasty mix of pollutants that are an increasing cause for concern, especially if you happen to be a fish in the Root River or a community like Hales Corners that gets the majority of its drinking water from Lake Michigan.
What are these so-called "stormwater pollutants" and where do they come from. Common examples are eroded soil from construction sites, ecessively applied fertilizers and pesticides from residential properties, pet wastes left behind near drainage ditches and storm sewers, and toxic materials like spilled oil, antifreeze, and gasoline from leaking automobiles and careless home mechanics. On an individual basis, pet waste or extra lawn fertilizer may not seem like a big deal, but it adds up when multiplied over a community with hundreds of homes and commercial buidlings and thousands of residents. Luckily, efforts to control stormwater polluntion also add up quickly when enough residents follow the below clean water tips:
- Redirect downspouts from paved areas to vegetative areas.
- Plant trees, shrubs, or ground covers to encourage more water to soak into the ground.
- Install a rain garden to hold clean storm water on your lot.
- Install a rain barrel under your downspouts to hold rainwater on your lot.
- Do a soil test to confirm that your yard actually needs additional fertilizer.
- If you must fertilize your lawn, use zero or low phosphorus fertilizer and avoid spreading dry granules on sidewalks and driveways.
- Never pour anything except water down a storm sewer, because whatever goes down a storm sewer is headed toward Lake Michigan.
- Minimize your use of de-icing materials on sidwalks and driveways.
- Keep your car tuned up and fix any fluid leaks.
- Dispose of pet waste by flushing it down the toilet, burying it, or bagging and tossing it in the trash.