6 things to know about not letting stormwater just run down the street

Brian Davis

Ali Elhassan and Brian Davis, water experts from the Metropolitan Council, chatted online with us today about the growing interest in making better use of the stormwater that ordinarily falls on the Twin Cities and then rushes down the Mississippi River. Some highlights:

6. Climate change.

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More intense storms translate into less infiltration of the ground. That means there's more runoff and greater significance to figuring out how to use it differently.

5. Some examples.

The Minnesota Twins have a 200,000-gallon cistern under the warning track to capture stormwater so it can water the grass and clean grandstand seats. St. Anthony Village collects water from streets and saves 4.6 million gallons a year of drinking water by watering a park. Centerville waters 11 acres of athletic fields with stormwater. Coming soon: Taking downtown St. Paul rainwater to water the new Saints stadium.

4. Rainwater, stormwater

To those in the know: "Rainwater" is captured from a roof before it hits the ground. Concerns about using it include bacteria from birds, squirrels and raccoons and zinc and lead from old gutters. "Stormwater" has hit the ground and can also contain chemicals from automobiles, road salt, pesticides, fertilizers.

3. Cool factor

Sensors and other technology could let people irrigate only when there's no rain in the forecast, know when they've sprung a leak and provide all manner of data on how much drinking water is being saved.

2. If you try this at home

Make sure your rain barrel has a way to discharge water far from the house after it's full. An inch of rain can be 1,000 gallons on your roof, 20 times the size of a typical rain barrel.

1. And eventually . . .

The Met Council is studying how the Twin Cities eventually might make use of wastewater from treatment plants. It's not looking at drinking it yet.

You can read the full discussion here.

Read all our Beneath the Surface coverage.