October 19, 2022

Homeowners Can Take Steps to Help Mitigate Runoff and Flooding

By Anne Levin

Just how serious is the problem of flooding and stormwater in New Jersey?

“It’s catastrophic,” said Mike Pisauro, policy director of The Watershed Institute in Pennington, this week. “And I don’t use that word loosely. As development continues in New Jersey, and as storms are getting worse, water has less and less places to go.”

According to the website statesatrisk.org, more than 300,000 people in New Jersey are living in areas at elevated risk of inland flooding. Heavy downpours have increased since 1950, and they are becoming more frequent.

Focusing on local flooding dangers, The Watershed Institute’s Chief of Operations Sophie Glovier gave a presentation last week at Princeton Public Library titled “The Race to Address Flooding in Princeton.” Glovier provided information on what residents can do to help mitigate the issue.

“There are a series of practices,” said Pisauro, who helped prepare the presentation. “Reducing lawns and transferring to native vegetation is one thing. Deep-rooted plants take up more water than lawns, and get more water into the ground.”

Creating rain gardens, installing rain barrels, and reducing impervious surfaces by using pavers or bricks instead of concrete or asphalt on driveways or sidewalks are also recommended. On the municipal website (princetonnj.gov), the section on stormwater management says that population growth and development are major contributors to the amount of pollutants in the runoff, as well as the volume and rate of runoff from impervious surfaces.

“Management of stormwater is not only critical to our environment, it is critical to our own health and well-being,” it reads. “Simply capturing stormwater runoff and discharging it into our streams can be detrimental to us and our environment because it fails to recharge our groundwater aquifers, causes downstream flooding, erodes the streambanks and scours the streambed, and dumps sediment and pollutants into our streams.”

Additional steps homeowners can take to reduce the dangers of flooding include maintaining a vehicle properly so that motor oil, brake linings, exhaust, and other fluids don’t contribute to water pollution; never dumping litter, animal waste, or leaves into storm drains or catch basins; picking up debris along the street; and refraining from raking leaves into the street where they could run into and clog catch basins.

Princeton is taking many steps to reduce flooding, Pisauro said. The Princeton Flood and Stormwater Commission is a group of residents that meets monthly to work on initiatives. “It’s part of a group we are moderating, bringing together towns within the Stonybrook Watershed (Princeton, Lawrence, Pennington, Hopewell, and East Amwell) to talk about how to share responsibility for all of this,” said Pisauro.

“Managing stormwater to reduce the impact of development on local watersheds and aquifers relies on minimizing the disruption in the natural flow, both quality and quantity of stormwater,” reads the Stormwater Management website. “By designing with nature, the impact of urbanization can be greatly reduced.”