Published onSeptember 6th, 2022
Stormwater Runoff Solutions for NYC Property Owners
With some of the severe storms in the New York City area recently, property owners have awakened to the need for better stormwater runoff solutions. Whether your building has already suffered damage or you want to prevent catastrophe in the future, read on to learn why this is suddenly such a vital concern and what you can do to protect your property.
Why Stormwater Runoff Has Become an Urgent Issue in NYC
Climate change and impervious surfaces
While climate change that is increasing severe weather in the Northeast has actually been going on for decades, the frequency and intensity of storms have grown over the last few years and extreme weather is predicted to keep getting worse. Tropical storm Elsa in 2021 was particularly bad for New York City, but a similar storm this year brought similar devastating results:
- Difficulties commuting and lost work time, with flooded subways and roadways causing shutdowns and water rescues
- Flooded apartments and lower levels, resulting in water damage, excessively high insurance claims, lost rental income, and homelessness
- Contamination from mold, bacteria, and hazardous materials
- Risk of electric shock from downed power lines (on an already stressed grid) and rising waters reaching the level of electrical outlets
- Pollution of New York City waterways and fragile outdoor spaces by dirty overflowing water and detritus in storm drains, with potential for damage to the city’s water supply
What is the root cause of the stormwater crisis in the city? Primarily, it’s the large area of paved and hard surfaces that are impervious to water. Rather than soaking in, the water has to go elsewhere. The laws of gravity and fluid mechanics dictate that it moves towards the nearest low point, which unfortunately means underpasses, basement apartments, and other low-lying spaces.
Stormwater Runoff Solutions to Reduce Property Damage and Pollution
Gutters and downspouts
The first thing you want to do to protect your building from damaging rain runoff is to have a system that channels the water away from your structure. That starts with gutters, downspouts, and the like to catch rain as it falls. From there, you can channel it to safer areas so it won’t compromise your foundation or flood low-level units.
Having gutters and downspouts isn’t enough, though. You need to keep them clean so they work properly. That means checking them after major storms when they can become clogged with everything from plant material to blowing trash. You should also give them a good cleaning in autumn after the last of the leaves have fallen. Using screens over your gutters can help keep out unwanted material in the future.
If you find water rising up through drains in the bottom of your building, or worse, through flooring, installing a sump pump can be helpful. These pumps sit in a basin at ground level and use a sensor to detect high water levels, whether through storms or high underground water tables. They pump the water away to a safer location, such as an approved above-ground system or a dry well, as mentioned above.
Adding more greenspace can go a long way in giving rainwater a place to drain. If possible, consider removing some paved areas and replacing it with grass or gravel over soil. It doesn’t have to be a lot, although the larger the area you create, the better for your building and neighboring properties. If you can’t create an entire garden, think about replacing cement walkways and paths with pea gravel.
DEP’s stormwater incentive program
Removing paved surfaces and replacing them with greenspace, as well as developing better water conduits, has been a focus for a new program created by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. This program has been tasked with reducing the negative effects of stormwater runoff, including mitigations on private properties in all five boroughs.
The DEP initiative utilizes all of the measures listed above to handle rainwater, especially when New York experiences severe storms. It has multiple benefits:
- Protection of private property, revenue, and residential shelter
- Reduction in damage to city infrastructure (which requires tax dollars for repair)
- Safeguarding of public waterways, water supply, and local flora and fauna
- Improvements in air quality and decreased exposure to toxic substances
- Lowering of ambient temperature during hottest summer days
The DEP is approaching property owners with large buildings (above 25,000 square feet) to offer financial and resource assistance with this initiative. Whether your property is too small to participate at present or you need to coordinate your plumbing system with the DEP program, Sanitary Plumbing is here to help. For suggestions about property improvements to reduce runoff damage or to integrate sump pumps into your lower level, call us today at 212-734-5000 to schedule an appointment.