Land Development and Protecting Water Quality

Athens, GA (October 1997)- Urban lawns can produce surprising quantities of nitrates, phosphates, and organic chemicals. In the U.S., lawns cover a greater land area than any one agricultural crop, and many are maintained so intensely that excess herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers leach out and overbalance stream ecosystems. Every time rain falls on an urban development, it washes off oils, litter, sediment, fertilizers, and foreign chemicals from streets, parking lots, lawns, dumpster pads, and metal roofs. The streams erode with great volumes and rates of runoff. In fact, stream habitats, wetlands, and water supplies are lost to flooding, pollution, erosion, and summer drought.

Knowledgeable design of urban development can solve the problem of runoff quality at the source- in the land uses where pollutants are first generated and rain water first touches the ground. The solution is embedded in transportation, land use, soil and vegetation, and only secondarily requires separate engineering structures.
This report outlines the types of provisions that could be modified in or added to local development regulations that could improve runoff quality. “Runoff quality” as used in this report includes the quantity of runoff during storms, its constituents, and all of its direct or indirect effects on ground water, water supplies, streams, and wetlands.
Read more about protecting water quality.