When rain falls on forests, grass, and mountains, the soil soaks it up. Plant roots hold the soil in place, and the rainwater filters slowly to enter streams, creeks, and rivers. But for over a century, we’ve developed land in a way that interrupts the natural water cycle. Paved surfaces and hard rooftops give rainwater nowhere to go. Instead of filtering slowly, stormwater runoff rushes downhill or pools in low-lying areas, carrying pollution it picks up along the way. The impacts include flooding, sewage overflows, and an expensive, growing network of pipes, pumps and other infrastructure designed to channel excess rainfall and send it directly into the nearest creek, river or lake.

But the rain has to go somewhere, and piping it away isn’t a viable long-term solution. Heavy rain quickly overwhelms even the best network of storm drains and stormwater outfalls. Development in urban areas can cover as much as ninety percent of the land with pavement. As our cities grow, it’s essential that we incorporate other solutions to protect against catastrophic flooding and to eliminate pollution.

Low-impact development (LID) is an alternative to sending stormwater runoff directly into waterways like Puget Sound. It incorporates natural drainage solutions into development, using strategies that collect and filter rainfall and protect people from pollution and flooding. Puget Soundkeeper and Washington Environmental Council are committed to a long-term vision where our communities are livable, walkable, safe and resilient. We’re working together to protect people and our shared waters by making low-impact development the preferred and commonly used approach throughout the region.