Minimizing Urban Runoff Back »

Rain Garden, Courtesy of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension


Written by Daniel Ostrem, former SDSU Extension Water Resource Field Specialist.

Many of the problems regarding nutrients, sediments, and harmful bacteria in South Dakota water start with runoff from the land surface. Agricultural lands in South Dakota have the largest impacts to water quality within the state’s watersheds. Urban landscapes however, also have large role in water quality impacts due to the amount of impervious cover on the surface. Impervious surfaces such as roofs, parking lots, roads, and driveways keep water from infiltrating into the soil. Cities invest a lot of resources to develop stormwater collection systems for the water that can’t be infiltrated. Voluntary action by property owners such as businesses and individuals can help minimize stormwater development costs and reduce pollutant loading to South Dakota’s water resources.

Rain Gardens & Bioswales

One option to help lessen stormwater effects is to decrease the volume of water that runs into streams. Managing water volume will help lessen the severity of flooding and keep nutrients out of our water. This can be accomplished by slowing down runoff, allowing more time for water infiltration into the soil. Rain gardens and bioswales are two landscaping tools that help do this by lengthening the water flow path and roughening the drainage surface with vegetation, mulch, or rock.

Bioswale, Courtesy of the U.S. EPA

Rain Barrels

A rain barrel is also an easy way for many homes to store high quality rain water from their home’s roof and apply it to their lawn or garden at a later time after the soils have had time to dry out. Rain barrels are fairly simple to build for a person with a motivated “do it yourself” personality. They can also be purchased as a kit where the only work needed is the installation underneath a downspout. These kits can be found at many home and garden stores. Helpful links to build your own rain barrel can be found from the links below.

Rain barrels painted by local Sioux Falls artists. The barrels were given away at this year’s 2014 Mayor's Water Summit

Pervious Surfaces

Another way to limit the volume of water in runoff is to minimize the amount of impervious surfaces. Paved driveways can cover a large area and typically drain all rainfall directly into the street. Many property owners have installed a more porous option, such as pavers, which allows water to fall through the surface. Many people find these options aesthetically pleasing in their landscaping and can even lessen the amount of ice on the drive during the winter months.

Pervious concrete.
Patio pavers.
Open-cell concrete.
Plastic pavers.

Options for pervious surfaces. Images Courtesy of University of Maryland Extension.

Additional Resources

City of Sioux Falls:

United States Environmental Protection Agency:

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