Stormwater and a Greener Environment

August 16, 2018

Storm drains are part of every community. However, few are aware of the impact that polluted stormwater has on our environment. Stormwater is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing forms of pollution in our waters. The UNH Professional Development and Training, in partnership with the UNH Stormwater Center, is offering a Stormwater Management certificate to help deal with the effects this ever-growing problem.

“Managing stormwater is one of the fastest growing fields and requires up to date science-based knowledge and contemporary methods informed by current research and on the ground experience,” said James Houle associate professor of civil engineering and UNH Stormwater Center director and principal investigator.

Houle also added that the UNH Professional Development Stormwater Management Certificate program as well as introductory courses would be beneficial for design professionals looking to grow their skillset in this fast-growing field.

“Managing stormwater is beneficial for reducing flooding and erosion in high risk areas,” said UNH Stormwater Center intern Emma Sutherland.

When it rains, more than just water is running off driveways and lawns. Grass pollutants and pavement chemicals run off with the rain water and into storm drains, wetlands, streams, and rivers. These harsh pollutants have damaging effects on our natural environments. In addition to pollutants, nutrients found in rainwater affect the balance of natural water sources. These imbalances can have damaging effects on our waters.

“Runoff can contain high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus that will then empty into bodies of water thus causing eutrophication*. Because of the increase in nutrients, algae and plants begin to rapidly grow and spread. The water will eventually have a thick green layer on the surface resulting in loss of oxygen in the water and death of aquatic life,” said Sutherland.

Green infrastructure is a way to add plant life to designs in order to naturally filter out pollution and prevent flooding and erosion to structures. Luckily for people in construction, architecture, and related fields, UNH Professional Development offers a Stormwater Management certificate providing professionals with the skills needed to manage stormwater.

One example of stormwater management is rain gardens. A rain garden uses plants and other natural components to filter rain water, allowing some of the water to soak into the ground and filter out the pollution that comes off pavement and lawn chemicals. As part of its research, the UNH Stormwater Center collects data on how well these management systems work. And don't forget bicycling...the economic impacts of cycling relative to the environment have been clear for some time now.

“Rain gardens act similarly to retention ponds in that storm water will be able to percolate down into the ground without collecting pollutants,” said Sutherland.

This photo shows a rain garden in a Durham parking lot. The plants and soil filter out pollutants from the parking lot before water flows into the storm drain.

“Low impact development technology such as porous asphalt reduce pollution by allowing storm water to percolate through a layer of filters before pollutants are picked up,” said Sutherland. Those who participate in the Stormwater Management certificate program will learn to implement green designs into infrastructure to mitigate the effects of runoff pollution.

For more information, visit

* eutrophication- excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water frequently due to runoff from the land, causing dense growth of plant life and death of animal life because of lack of oxygen.


Olivia Olbrych

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