Chapter 10 – Stormwater Management With a “Naturally Better” Solution

Chapter 10 – Stormwater Management With a “Naturally Better” Solution

How do you spell relief?!   Really, we’ve had continuous cold and rain despite the calendar telling me it’s May!  On May 4th I actually had to wear three layers of clothing, including fleece, and my ski hat to stay warm enough while on the job site!!  Maybe it’s all about what you put out to the universe because over the last week we’ve been thinking about and talking about rain and its potentially negative impact on a home and the environment.  What we have been focused on is stormwater management.  I think the quote that suits this best is from Frank Lloyd Wright: “You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.”

Snow Creek Landscaping removes a difficult tree

The first issue we needed to resolve was shedding rainwater off the driveway and channeling it away from the house.  The obvious realization to us all was that we had one GIANT poplar that needed to go because it was cramping the driveway and not allowing adequate room to shed the water off the driveway before it got to the house in the first place.  Well, the dilemma was that in taking down the tree we’d likely destroy the rhododendron thicket around the tree or we’d have to drop it on the concrete pad.  The sheer force of impact could potentially damage the concrete.  Neither choice I could accept.  So Michael Davie, Natural Resource Manager with Snow Creek Landscaping, was my go-to guy!  His excellent team climbed up that 100 foot poplar with unimaginable skill and dropped the tree in multiple sections, with no harm to my beloved rhodos!  Just as their website says, “their knowledge, creativity, and passion are all clearly evident. You will find that our work always lives up to the highest standards of quality.”  Whenever you need arborist help, don’t hesitate to call Snow Creek Landscaping!

The removal of the tree allowed regrading of the driveway so the slope is away from the house and water will shed into the rhododendron thicket beside the house.  Not only did we improve drainage, I now have a much better guest parking area.  (It makes me happy to check things off my list of concerns so easily!!)

Now comes the major lesson of the day:  what is stormwater and why is it of such concern?  Stormwater originates during precipitation events, and that which does not soak into the ground becomes surface runoff. Runoff will flow directly into surface waterways or is channeled into storm sewers , which eventually discharges to surface waters.  On my site we have no sewers but I do have Robinson Creek to protect.  There are two reasons for concern:  one related to the volume and timing of runoff water and the other related to the potential contaminants the water is carrying.    My standing seam roof will not generate any contaminants so that is not the concern.  The volume of water certainly is!

My roof area is approximately 4000 square feet and is obviously an impervious surface which will shed water at a much greater volume than a similar area in an undeveloped condition.  This additional runoff could erode the creek as well as cause flooding if the stormwater management plan does not account for this increased volume of water.

Here’s our solution:
We will install six 3″ ProFlo roof drains to take all the water from the roof directly to a stormwater retention pond via underground piping.

ProFlo roof drain

This retention pond is an artificial “lake” with vegetation around the perimeter and includes a permanent level of water in its design.   The sizing of the pond is designed to handle one inch of rain from the roof and will discharge the water through a 3 inch drain only in a very large storm event.  The retention pond has been sited in a woodland area where the discharge at a much slower rate will seep into the ground before it ever reaches Robinson Creek.

The retention pond construction necessitated creativity because I have said for months, “I just don’t want a big old mud hole in my back yard!”  Well, Robin brought his track hoe, his carefully calculated measurements and great design ideas as we began creating the retention pond.  We had harvested LOTS of rocks and boulders from the property so using them for aesthetic and structural elements became the plan.   The pipe from the roof drains is significantly uphill from the retention pond, so we created a waterfall with large boulders and an EPDM rubber lining.  The water will then cascade into the 15′ x 20′ retention pond.  Can’t you just hear the waterfall now?

Boulder waterfall into retention pond

We installed the overflow pipe 20 inches below the top of the dam, a berm of soil  lined with EPDM rubber for stabilization and held in place with rocks and boulders from the property.  This 20 inches of depth provides the necessary area for the collection of rain from a one inch storm.  Thank goodness Robin knows how to calculate this kind of stuff!

Setting the overflow pipe in the dam

After one afternoon of Randy Redrick’s HARD work, Robin’s highly skilled use of his track hoe and his knowledge of retention pond construction, it’s almost completed!  And guess what?  The rain begins AGAIN!!

Retention pond at the end of day one

The last task became my responsibility and it involved completely covering the EPDM liner with rocks which would be gathered by hand.  The plan was to use a John Deer gator, an all terrain utility vehicle, to move the gathered rocks close to the pond for setting by hand.  However the rain created such muddy conditions that it was impossible for the gator to get traction and for most of the day I toted the rocks in a bucket and rolled the boulders one by one closer to the pond.  Then I manually set them in place.  I definitely tackled my task “wholeheartedly,” as Mr. Wright advised!  After about 4 hours of really hard work, the project was done!  I am simply thrilled, but does anyone have a LARGE bottle of Ibuprofen they want to send my way?  Actually, I’m headed for a bubble bath and then wine and pizza with friends.  Those little things in life are all so much better after a hard day’s work!!

The completed retention pond and waterfall


Achieving low impact development with a stormwater management plan is a critical component of green building. Integrated water management brings together elements of drainage science, ecology and a realization that traditional drainage solutions simply transfer problems further downstream to the detriment of our environment and precious water resources.  With Blue Ridge Energy Systems, we have created functional art at its best and they have more than lived up to their motto “Naturally Better Homes.”

Mignon Durham is a retired computer consultant, avid art and craft collector, founder of Toe River Project Access, and founder of Toe River Valley Watch. She has always been fascinated with what makes a place feel like home, and she hopes this blog will enlighten your own personal journey home.