Stormwater Management: Flood Prevention

Katie Thompson
Last Updated: April 2, 2024

Stormwater Management: Flood Prevention

Stormwater management is a crucial aspect of urban planning and development. With the increasing frequency and intensity of storms, proper management of stormwater is essential to prevent flooding, protect infrastructure and the environment. In this article, we will discuss the importance of stormwater management for any commercial development and some civil engineering solutions to effectively manage stormwater.

The Importance of Stormwater Management

Stormwater is rainwater that flows over land and surfaces such as roads, parking lots, and rooftops. In urban areas, where there is a high concentration of impervious surfaces, stormwater runoff can quickly accumulate and cause flooding. This not only damages infrastructure and property but also poses a threat to public safety. The shelf life of a poorly designed parking lot without proper drainage will deteriorate much faster than the average parking lot.  Excess moisture on highways, parking lots and roads without proper drainage will result in the following:


  • Swelling, instability and eventually road failure under a heavy load.
  • A wet road surface reduces lead braking time since there is less friction.
  • Waves, potholes and cracks will develop reducing the overall shelf life of infrastructure.
  • Roads constructed on embankment slopes may damage due to slop failures the reason for which is excess moisture content which causes increase in weight and thus increases stresses and simultaneous reduction in strength of soil mass.
  • Water in pores will freeze and finally damage the pavement (frost heaving)


  • Thermal pollution.  Stormwater that runs over hot surfaces such as asphalt increases the temperature of water and decreases the oxygen-holding capacity thereby harming aquatic life.  
  • Water pollution. Stormwater runoff can pick up pollutants such as oil, fertilizers, animal waste, grease, trash, chemicals, bacteria and debris, and carry them into nearby streams, lakes, wetlands and rivers causing harm to aquatic life and ecosystems.
  • Erosion. This is a natural process that occurs when soil is displaced by wind, water, or other environmental factors. However, when left unchecked, erosion can cause significant damage to the environment and surrounding areas. This is why it is important to implement effective strategies for erosion control.  By redirecting water flow away from areas that are prone to erosion can be achieved using drainage pipes, swales, and other structures that help to channel water away from vulnerable areas. By managing the flow of water, you can prevent erosion and protect your property from potential damage.    

This is why proper stormwater management is crucial to protect both people and the environment.

Flood Damage in Calgary, Alberta

Stormwater Management Solutions

Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure refers to natural or engineered systems that mimic the natural water cycle and help manage stormwater. This includes techniques such as rain gardens, bioswales, riparian buffers, constructed wetlands, sediment filters, green roofs, and permeable pavement. These solutions allow stormwater to be absorbed into the ground, reducing the amount of runoff and preventing flooding.

Detention and Retention Ponds

Detention and retention ponds are engineered structures designed to collect and store stormwater runoff. Detention ponds temporarily hold stormwater and release it slowly to prevent flooding. Retention ponds, on the other hand, permanently hold stormwater and allow it to infiltrate into the ground. These ponds also help filter out pollutants before the water reaches natural water bodies.

Stormwater Pond in Edmonton, Alberta


Culverts are a necessary to keep water flowing underneath a road.  They are tunnel structures to that prevent flooding and provide drainage.   Culverts are a less expensive alternative to allow water to flow under the road without having to build a bridge for each little creek and ditch.    Civil engineers design culverts to support the weight of traffic in addition to allowing enough water to pass through without washing out the road.  While it may look like a simple pipe in the ground but there are several complex design considerations that go into calculating the size, spacing and depth of a culvert.

Stormwater Management Guidelines

The Stormwater Management guidelines are municipally and provincially regulated.  Each region has a comprehensive guide for managing stormwater. It provides guidance on best management practices, design standards, and regulations for stormwater management. Regional guidelines provide valuable resources for developers, civil engineers, and planners to ensure proper stormwater management in their projects.

Maintenance and Inspection

Proper maintenance and regular inspection of stormwater management systems are crucial to ensure their effectiveness. This includes removing debris and sediment from ponds, checking for clogs in drainage systems, and repairing any damages. Regular maintenance and inspection can prevent system failures and ensure that stormwater is managed effectively.

The Path Forward

Stormwater management is a critical aspect of urban development to prevent flooding and protect the environment. Green infrastructure, detention and retention ponds, and the Stormwater Management Guidelines are some solutions that can effectively manage stormwater. Regular maintenance and inspection are also essential to ensure the proper functioning of stormwater management systems. By implementing these solutions, we can mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff and create more resilient communities.

About the author

With more than 12 years in human resources, Katie brings important process management skills to the table. Her direct experience with senior management in the construction industry helps her understand your engineering project goals. Her creative forward-thinking propels Bolson toward exciting new business opportunities.

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