Stormwater Frequently Asked Questions

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Who do I contact to report pollution?
To report pollution, call the City of Greensboro Contact Center at 336-373-CITY (2489) or submit online.

Who do I contact to report blockages in drainage ways, such as culverts and bridges?
Call the City of Greensboro Contact Center at 336-373-CITY (2489) or submit online.

Who do I contact to report other drainage problems?
Call the City of Greensboro Contact Center at 336-373-CITY (2489) or submit online.

How did Greensboro develop its stormwater program?
To develop the program, City staff worked with a consultant firm. A citizens advisory committee assisted directly in evaluating each program element and funding alternative. Funding options that were considered included the general fund (property taxes), bonds, special assessment tax districts, and service charges.

Why are cities implementing these programs?
Stormwater quality management programs are a response to regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcing federal Clean Water Act provisions. The Water Quality Act enacted in 1987 requires cities with more than 100,000 people to obtain a stormwater discharge permit under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and to create a comprehensive program to seek out and eliminate, to the maximum extent practical, pollutants carried by stormwater.

What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff is the water that flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets, and other impervious surfaces during rain storms. Rather than being absorbed into the ground, it pours into ditches, culverts, catch basins, and storm sewers. It does not receive any treatment before eventually entering the community's streams and lakes.

What problems does it cause?
Stormwater can carry harmful nonpoint source pollutants, cause flooding, erode topsoil and stream banks, and destroy aquatic habitat. In an area with natural ground cover, only 10 percent of rainwater becomes runoff. The rest is absorbed or evaporates. In urban areas, up to 55 percent of rainfall can become stormwater runoff.

Why are the stormwater and sewer systems separate?
Unlike wastewater, which is treated before it is released back into the environment, stormwater goes directly into a community's ponds, streams and lakes. Because stormwater comes in large amounts at unpredictable times, treating it as wastewater would be very expensive.

What is nonpoint source pollution?
Nonpoint source pollution is water pollution that is difficult to trace to a specific discharge point. Because it comes from many diverse sources, it is hard to control. Examples of common nonpoint source pollutants include fertilizers, pesticides, sediments, oils, salts, trace metals, and litter. They come from farms, yards, roofs, construction sites, automobiles, and streets.

Why has Greensboro chosen to institute a separate fee for stormwater management?
There are several reasons. First, a fee based on impervious surface area is an equitable way to charge and collect revenues for this program. Secondly, the federal government required that we designate a stable and continuous source of funds to ensure compliance. By establishing a dedicated funding source through stormwater utility fees, the City can ensure that the millions of dollars required to manage and maintain this important system are available.

What is impervious surface area?
Impervious surface area is any surface that does not readily absorb water and impedes the natural infiltration of water into the soil. Common examples include roofs, driveways, parking areas, sidewalks, patios, decks, tennis courts, concrete or asphalt streets, crushed stone, and gravel surfaces.

How did the City determine impervious surface area?
For single family homes, a statistical sampling was taken of properties in Greensboro. Each was measured and an average impervious surface area was determined. For businesses and other institutions, the City measured the impervious area using aerial survey data. Read more about stormwater rates.

Why is gravel impervious?
Packed gravel and earthen matter can prevent or impede the entry of water into the soil mantle as it occurs under natural conditions. Studies show that once gravel is compacted (i.e. from cars and heavy equipment), it acts like a paved surface and surface water runs off of it.

How does Greensboro treat stormwater drainage systems on private property under this new utility?
The City must protect the entire drainage system, publicly or privately owned, from pollution. The City works with private property owners to advise them on practices to follow to reduce or eliminate pollution. The City enforces ordinances against improper disposal or dumping if voluntary compliance does not occur.

What can I do to reduce pollution in stormwater runoff?
Creating natural areas on your property can help reduce the quantity of stormwater runoff. Disposing of wastes properly, using a minimum amount of chemicals on your yard, and keeping your car well-maintained can reduce the amount of pollution that you add to stormwater runoff.

What is the stream reforestation project?
The City has changed the way urban streams are maintained by allowing the areas bordering streams to grow more naturally and planting trees, rather than regularly mowing these areas. The benefits include stabilizing stream banks and reducing soil erosion, a primary cause of water pollution. The vegetation acts as a filter to naturally protect and clean the water, and provides shade to keep it cooler, allowing fish and other aquatic life to thrive.

For more information, call the City's Contact Center at 336-373-CITY (2489).