The North Carolina Coastal Federation and The Pew Charitable Trusts are working to increase the use of Nature-based Stormwater Strategies statewide to reduce flooding and protect water quality.

NBSS Press Conference

March 3rd, 2021

Action Plan for Nature-based Stormwater Strategies: Promoting Natural Designs that Reduce Flooding and Improve Water Quality.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategy Action Plan

Downspout connector to rain garden.

Using a downspout extender, stormwater can be directed away from impervious surfaces to vegetated areas allowing stormwater infiltration. This is a simple retrofit option.

N.C. Nature-based Stormwater Strategies

The Action Plan for Nature-based Stormwater Strategies was developed by the North Carolina Coastal Federation with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and input from four expert work groups focusing on opportunities for use of nature based stormwater strategies in new development, stormwater retrofits, roadways and working lands.

Nature-based strategies are effective stormwater management methods to reduce flooding and surface runoff while accommodating existing and future land uses, both urban and rural. The key principal of nature-based stormwater strategies is to maintain or mimic a site’s natural hydrology and capacity to collect, soak in and filter stormwater runoff. This can be achieved by implementing bioretention, disconnected impervious surfaces, permeable pavers and large-scale watershed restoration.

Strategic and innovation nature-based stormwater strategies are increasingly important as North Carolina faces the need to plan for climate adaption and resiliency. The Action Plan now positions North Carolina to better prepare for, and respond to, future stormwater flooding and water quality degradation.

Action Plan for Nature-based Stormwater Strategies Development 

Over the course of 2020, the Action Plan was developed with input from over 60 work group members, representing North Carolina state and local government agencies, businesses, universities, non-profits and other sectors. They dove into stormwater management approaches and opportunities related to New Development, Stormwater Retrofits, Roadways and Working Lands. The work groups identified barriers to, and opportunities for, using nature-based stormwater strategies for these land uses.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work groups met for many hours virtually and provided written input and feedback over the course of 2020 to develop a strategic set of findings and recommendations for advancing nature-based stormwater strategies.

We have to rebuild stronger and smarter and ensure we can withstand the climate impacts of the future. What we know is that we have to act now. We cannot do the same old things and expect a different result. We have the opportunity to address flood risk and water quality and to make our communities safer.

– Secretary Michael Regan, Opening remarks on March 25, 2020

Cross-Cutting Recommendations

As the four work groups considered how to address these impediments at the state, local and project-specific level, four recommendations were identified and encouraged across those discussions.

  1. State and local governments need to lead by example by promoting the use of nature-based stormwater strategies and implementing them widely where practicable.
  2. Increase education, outreach and professional training for nature-based stormwater and watershed management strategies.
  3. Create a Nature-Based Stormwater Steering Committee to ensure continued stakeholder engagement and leadership in support of long-term, meaningful progress.
  4. Establish effective watershed management that focuses on protecting, restoring or mimicking natural water systems to reduce flooding and improve water quality.

Protect Water Quality

You can protect and restore water for fishing, swimming and working.

Initiative Updates:

We have representatives for each of the work groups below to develop the N.C. Nature-based Stormwater Strategies Action Plan. 

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies are most effective when implemented early on in the design phase of new development projects.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies such as permeable pavement, cisterns and rain gardens promote infiltration and rainwater reuse. These techniques reduce stormwater runoff even on high density development sites.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies are effective and economical methods to improve water quality by disconnecting impervious surfaces.

On conventional lots, rainwater hits impervious surfaces and collects pollutants as it runs to storm drains. Stormwater runoff is reduced by installing retrofits to disconnect impervious surfaces.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies can be implemented along inland and coastal roadways to reduce runoff and reduce maintenance costs.

An inland highway uses grassed swales to collect and infiltrate runoff, which reduces flooding and discharge to surface waters.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies help restore natural hydrology on farm and forest land.

This converted wetland was restored to its natural stream bed hydrology to collect runoff from adjacent working lands.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies are:

Effective

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies reduce flooding, improve water quality, recharge groundwater and helps balance economic development with natural resource management.

Economical

Using low impact development (LID) methods in place of conventional methods can result in capital cost savings up to 80%, according to a 2007 EPA report.

Advantageous

According to a 2018 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report, LID practices capitalize on the existing landscape to manage stormwater at its source, while providing social, economic and environmental benefits.

Adaptable

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies can be incorporated on all types of land uses including development and retrofit projects, transportation systems and working lands.

Sensible

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies have been applied to projects across North Carolina. — like the Market at Colonnade Center in Raleigh — and are used across the country.

Learn more about each of the work groups: