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Stormwater FAQs

  • What is Stormwater?

    Stormwater is the name given to rain and melted snow when it hits and flows along the ground. When it rains, water can be soaked into the ground, used up by trees and plants or evaporated off of the surface it lands on. Stormwater is the excess water, most of which flows off of surfaces like driveways, parking lots, roofs and grass yards.

  • Where does stormwater go, how does it get there?

    The stormwater that leaves your property is captured and carried by a massive system of catch basins (road grates), storm sewers (drainage pipes), ditches, culverts, stormwater ponds and outfalls (point where stormwater discharges to a water body). This system carries stormwater to the nearest creek, river or lake. The stormwater that enters a catch basin near your property is not treated at the wastewater treatment plant. In newer parts of the City, stormwater may enter a stormwater pond where some pollutants are removed and water is held back to reduce flooding.

  • What infrastructure does the City have to manage all of this stormwater?

    The City of Peterborough owns and operates approximately:

    • 12,300 catch basins and manholes
    • 317 kilometers of storm sewers
    • 230 storm sewer outfalls
    • 32 stormwater ponds

    Storm Water Pond

  • What is this infrastructure worth, and how much does it cost to maintain?

    The entire stormwater system in the city of Peterborough is worth $535 million, if we were to replace it all today. It would cost about $9.2 million annually to maintain and improve the system we have; this includes the annual operation, maintenance, legislated requirements, and administration and capital costs of the stormwater system. The City currently spends about $3 million annually, with a plan to gradually increase spending to meet our legislated requirements and to reduce flooding and improve water quality.

  • What is stormwater pollution?

    Stormwater flows across many surfaces where it picks up all sorts of dirt, debris and pollutants, these pollutants can include:

    • sand and salt from winter maintenance
    • trash left on the streets, sidewalks and parking lots
    • pesticides and fertilizers used for lawn care
    • soap and oil from car washing and car maintenance
    • household and construction chemicals, such as paint, drywall/tile compounds or medication
    • pet waste
    • sediments from construction sites, bare soil, agricultural land and eroded streams
    • AND MANY MORE!
  • Why is stormwater pollution a problem and why should I be concerned?

    Stormwater is the number one cause of pollution in our local water bodies, including the Otonabee River, the same river where most of the City receives its drinking water. Polluted stormwater in the Otonabee River results in increased costs to treat and deliver drinking water to our City. It isn’t just our City, there are numerous residents downstream of Peterborough that get their drinking water from the Otonabee River, and our pollution directly impacts their drinking water too.

    Polluted water also hurts the wildlife in creeks, streams, rivers and lakes. Dirt and sediment from stormwater and eroded stream banks, covers up fish habitat. Fertilizers can cause too much algae to grow, which also hurts wildlife by using up oxygen in the water they need to survive. Soaps hurt fish gills and fish skin, and other chemicals damage plants and animals when they enter the water.

    The quantity and volume of stormwater is also a problem. More stormwater is created when we pave natural or grassed areas, build houses and remove trees. This can result in an increased risk of flooding and also causes streams and creeks to erode, changing their makeup, and ability to sustain vegetation and wildlife.

    Storm Water Pond

  • What is the City doing to manage polluted stormwater?

    The City is continuing to implement the recommendations of its Stormwater Quality Management Master Plan (SWQMMP), which was completed in 2015, and formally adopted by Council in 2017. The SWQMMP outlines various short-term and long-term strategies for reducing the volume of stormwater and improving the quality of stormwater runoff. These strategies include:

    • Improving our maintenance and inspection of stormwater ponds, including the removal of accumulated sediments. This will ensure our stormwater ponds continue to operate effectively, cleaning stormwater and reducing flooding.
    • Proposed modifications to some of our existing stormwater ponds, to improve their performance.
    • Updating the City’s sewer use by-law governing allowable discharges into the stormwater system.
    • Creating community outreach and education plans, to educate and inform the public about stormwater management, including how stormwater can be controlled on-site.
    • Integrating new policies related to stormwater in the Official Plan and requires new and innovative stormwater management techniques through the City’s Engineering Design Standards.
    • Implement a sustainable mechanism for funding stormwater infrastructure through a Stormwater Protection Fee
    • Monitor and report on water quality in our creeks, and at major storm sewer outfalls, to identify, and remedy sources of pollution.
  • What can I do to lessen the polluted stormwater leaving my property?

    Improving the quality of stormwater leaving your property can be as simple as; washing your car on grassed surfaces (or take it to a car wash), sweep driveways regularly and dispose of sediment in garbage (DO NOT use water to rinse away dirt and grime from your driveway, it probably goes right to the nearest creek!), don’t dispose of anything in a catch basin, immediately clean up after your pets, report instances of pollution to the City, limit or avoid using fertilizers, and don’t use pesticides at all.

    If you are doing any major construction or landscaping to your property, you should also try to cover loose soil and vegetate bare earth as soon as possible to avoid erosion and sediment draining to the storm sewers.

  • I remember in 2004 the City had severe flooding, I heard it was a 1 in 100 year flood, that means it shouldn’t happen again in my lifetime, right?

    The term “1 in 100 year” flood is a commonly misunderstood phrase used to describe the severity of a rain event or flood. What it actually means is a given rainfall volume/intensity or flood level/flow, has 1 in 100 or 1% chance of occurring in any given year.

    Look at it this way, over a 30 year period, which is the average term of a mortgage, statistically there is a 26% chance (or about 1 in 4) of a “1 in 100 year” flood occurring at least once.

    To find out if you might be located in a flood plain, please contact Otonabee Conservation.

    Storm Water Pond

  • What has the City done since 2004 and what is the City planning to do, to reduce flooding?

    The City has an ongoing Flood Reduction program which is guided by the Flood Reduction Master Plan, and watershed based Flood Damage Reduction Studies. The City maintains a list of over 100 flood reductions projects; projects are prioritized based on their cost and benefit towards reducing flood damage. A few highlights of the City’s flood reduction projects include:

    Past Projects

    Medical Drive Stormwater Pond – This pond was constructed for the Hospital Drive road network, and was further expanded to contain additional flood waters, this helps reduce flooding downstream.

    Walker Avenue – Installation of storm sewers and an overland flow route to minimize flooding in the Walker Avenue area.

    Flushing, Cleaning and CCTV – The City has implemented a program to regularly inspect and clean all storm and sanitary sewers. This ensures they are in good working order in the event the City receives significant rainfall, and also guides limited resources towards the most appropriate infrastructure repairs and maintenance.

    Future and Ongoing Projects

    Marina Boulevard – Installation of a large storm sewer and overflow inlet along Marina Blvd. to capture major flood flows from Bears Creek and carry them further downstream, thereby reducing flooding along Marina Boulevard.

    Jackson Creek Diversion – Installation of a large concrete sewer under Bethune Street. The sewer will carry diverted flow from Jackson Creek, and away from the City’s downtown area.

    Armour Road and Caddy Street – Replace existing culverts over Curtis Creek, at Armour Road and Caddy Street. These replacements will significantly increase the flow carrying capacity at these crossings, thereby reducing flooding in the immediate areas.

  • What can I do on my property to decrease the amount of stormwater produced, and help my downstream neighbours?

    There are many actions you can take on your property to reduce the flow and volume of stormwater coming off of your property.

    The simplest actions, that cost little to nothing, include:

    • Make sure your downspouts are directed to a grassed area that slopes away from your foundation. If possible, direct it to an area where water will have the best chance to soak into the ground before it reaches the street.
    • Maintain mature trees to the greatest extent possible and try to keep as much green space on your property as you can. In some cases, a paved driveway produces more than 5 times the runoff as a grassed surface!

    Other actions, requiring a bit more effort, include:

    • Install rain barrels to collect runoff from your roof, the water collected can be used to water a garden.
    • Install a rain garden in a location where it can capture runoff from a roof or other hard surface.
    • If you must expand or pave your driveway, consider installing permeable pavers.

    If you want more information about these systems, and how you can reduce stormwater and improve water quality, check out our Rain Resources page.