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.

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

In response to the increasing intensity and frequency of rain events that are causing water quality impairments and localized flooding, the North Carolina Coastal Federation and The Pew Charitable Trusts are working together to foster the increased use of Nature-based Stormwater Strategies where feasible statewide. 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, infiltrate and filter stormwater runoff.

Nature-based Stormwater Strategies include bioretention, disconnected impervious surfaces, permeable pavers and large-scale watershed restoration that attempts to protect and restore a site’s natural hydrology.

Strategic and innovative Nature-based Stormwater Strategies are increasingly important as North Carolina faces  the need to plan for climate adaptation and resiliency.

Developing a Nature-based Stormwater Strategy Action Plan for North Carolina will position the state to better prepare for and respond to future stormwater flooding and water quality degradation.


N.C. Nature-based Stormwater Strategy Action Plan Work Groups

Over the course of 2020, four focus groups will collaboratively identify policy, funding and outreach needs to advance nature-based stormwater strategies where feasible. The groups represent various stakeholders and will target their efforts on strategies to advance the following:

  • incorporating nature-based strategies into the design of new development projects (residential, commercial, and industrial),
  • retrofitting existing development with nature-based techniques to reduce existing volumes of stormwater;
  • utilizing nature-based strategies in design and retrofit projects for highways, roads and streets;
  • and utilizing nature-based strategies to protect and restore hydrology on agricultural and working lands.

The work groups will ultimately prepare  a N.C. Nature-based Stormwater Strategy Action Plan to guide implementation and outreach to advance nature-based strategies across the State over the next several years.

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

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:


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


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.


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.


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


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: