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How can you help reduce stormwater runoff? Here's a few simple home hacks.

How can stormwater runoff be reduced?
How can stormwater runoff be reduced? 02:46

MOUND, Minn. — Stormwater drains are getting extra work this year, and with more rainfall in the forecast this week, it's put certain a problem front and center. So how can we reduce stormwater runoff? And why is it a concern?

Foliage with function highlights Julie Weisenhorn's home, but it didn't always look this way.

"Prior to this project, the house and the garage were not connected. And we had asphalt covering this entire area and between the two buildings," she said while standing on her driveway.

Connecting the house and garage was the perfect time for them to set roots on a solution to their runoff problem.

"We created a rain garden to collect and hold (water), allow to seep in, allow to percolate in," said Weisenhorn, an extension horticulture educator with the University of Minnesota.

It starts with downspouts into a couple rain barrels. When the barrels overflow, they drain into pipes underground. The pipes lead to the rain garden where plants are eager to soak up the water, and a specific soil type lets it seep into the ground. Between the barrels and garden, about 400 gallons can be held. The water stays on her property and away from her neighbor, Lake Minnetonka.

"Managing stormwater is something all of us can play part in," said Ryan Anderson, stormwater program manager for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

But what is the main concern with stormwater runoff?

"In many watersheds, stormwater can be one of the primary contributors of pollutants to our lakes rivers and streams," said Anderson.

Stormwater drags nutrients like phosphorus into drains, which lead to lakes and streams hurting water quality. They can also create algae blooms.

"The volume itself of stormwater — the large rainfalls, intense rainfalls that we've seen — those can be challenging for the infrastructure that transports the stormwater," he added.

Managing runoff around impervious surfaces, which are hard surfaces that don't let water drain into the ground, is crucial.

Commercial properties with parking lots need to follow state regulations and guidelines, as do construction zones that often remove vegetation.

How can we reduce runoff at home? There's a handful of options, some of which can be cost-free.

"If you have rain gutters and downspouts, making sure that those downspouts are directed to your lawn, essentially to a vegetated area, rather than to a driveway or directly to a curb," said Anderson.

When mowing your lawn or raking leaves, don't let them get onto the street and along curbs in order to keep them from drains.

Rain barrels are another solid option. Many municipalities or watersheds have rain barrel programs that help homeowners get them at a discount or applies for credits for owning one. And if you have the time and resources, build a rain garden. Besides the one outside her home, Weisenhorn took WCCO to another home in Mound where a rain garden was recently built. 

"The water would pour down the street and right into the lake," she said as she stood along the path where stormwater would flow between two backyards.

Volunteers, grant funding, and careful planning by Harrison's Bay Association helped build the rain garden a few months ago, just in time for our soaker of a summer.

"Our goal is to manage and teach people about good landscaping for water quality," Weisenhorn said of the Harrison's Bay Association. "And a rain garden is a great way to do that."

To learn more about building a rain garden and the types of plants you should use, click here. For more information about rain barrels, click here.

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