Storm Water Resources in Clark County, Washington

Importance of Storm Water Management

In the face of the evolving urban landscape and climate phenomena, ‘storm water management‘ plays a pivot role in maintaining the environmental balance and community health. It involves the control and diversion of rainwater runoff to mitigate flooding, reduce erosion, and improve water quality. Timely and efficient storm water management is vital to prevent contamination of water bodies, protect ecosystems, and uphold compliance with regulations. Particularly in regions experiencing significant rainfall, like Clark County, Washington, proper management of storm water is absolutely essential. Improper handling of storm water often leads to the overflow of drainage systems and exacerbation of water pollution, negatively impacting both human and aquatic life.

Brief Overview of Clark County

Located in the southwestern region of Washington State, Clark County, is named after the famous explorer William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. With a population nearing half a million, it is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. The county’s terrain is diverse, characterized by lowlands, hills, water bodies such as rivers, streams, lakes, and the Pacific Ocean to its west. This topographical diversity necessitates sophisticated storm water management strategies to preserve the natural habitat, protect property, and ensure water quality.

Weather Patterns in Clark County

Clark County’s climate can be classified as warm-summer Mediterranean, with dry summers and wet, mild winters. Its elevation ranges from sea level to about 4,000 feet, causing a considerable variation in precipitation. The area’s average annual rainfall is 40-45 inches, with the majority occurring between November and March. The weather patterns create a unique challenge for storm water resources in Clark County, leading to the need for robust storm water management infrastructure.

Impact of Storm Water on Local Communities

The effects of storm water on local communities are extensive. Uncontrolled storm water can lead to localized flooding, causing damage to properties and proving hazardous to human life. It can also contribute to the pollution of local water bodies, impacting drinking water sources and aquatic ecosystems. It’s a significant concern for Clark County, particularly due to their diverse terrain and weather patterns. Through best management practices, like the installation of effective drainage systems and adoption of cost-effective solutions for water treatment, Clark County aims to minimize the adverse impact of storm water on its local communities. SWT Geotechnical Engineering, a key player in this domain, continues to partner with the county to ensure effective storm water management.

Clark County’s Storm Water Management Infrastructure

Overview of Current Infrastructure

Clark County, located in the Pacific Northwest, is tasked with combating the challenges of pollution, urbanization, and rapidly expanding population pressures. To address these issues, the Clark County Clean Water Division program has been established, with the primary goal of improving the quality of rivers, streams, and lakes. This is in alignment with state regulations and the federal Clean Water Act. The program encompasses various activities, including maintaining stormwater, enforcing regulations, public outreach, and investing in capital improvements to the stormwater system.

The Clark County Clean Water Division is responsible for the stormwater management infrastructure, ranging from the drainage systems in roadways to stormwater facilities in local communities. The Division also engages in reducing pollution at the business level and encourages the public with educational resources regarding their local watersheds and streams.

Role of Man-made and Natural Water Bodies

The county hosts ten major watersheds that drain into the Columbia River. The county provides a GIS mapping system for locals to identify their specific watershed. The Division also maintains a historical rainfall data bank for public access and research purposes. Rainfall data plays a crucial role in planning and implementing stormwater management structures and systems.

The city’s water supply is drawn entirely from wells tapping into three underground aquifers—Orchards, Troutdale, and the Sand-and-Gravel aquifers. These aquifers are vital natural water supplies that are recharged by seepage of water from rain and snow.

Maintenance and Upgrades of the Infrastructure

To ensure the cleanliness of waterways for residents, as well as local wildlife, several initiatives have been launched. Prominently, the 2023-2028 Stormwater Capital Program aims to protect water bodies by upgrading or establishing new stormwater facilities, maintaining existing ones, planting trees, preserving streamside habitats, and rehabilitating stream channels. Also, in 2021, there were updates to the 2015 Stormwater Manual and associated codes, which went into effect in July.

In terms of stormwater facilities, they can be either publicly or privately owned. The Division assists in both cases, providing maintenance standards for private Homeowner Associations (HOAs) and working with staff to address issues in public facilities. The county has also initiated an active monitoring program and is conducting in-depth monitoring at multiple sites.

Plans of Future Expansion or Changes

Looking ahead, Clark County is geared towards continuous improvement of stormwater management practices. Homeowners are being encouraged to manage rainwater through practices like constructing rain barrels for storing rainwater and creating rain gardens for reusing rainwater. The county also promoted the use of native plants in landscaping and green practices in vehicle maintenance.

Moreover, the Division aims to address non-point source pollution that originates from everyday activities that contaminate surface and groundwater. To reduce this type of pollution, the Division clarified the purpose of bio-swales in new subdivisions. There is also an effort to clarify misconceptions about rain barrels’ legality, asserting they require no permits for negligible amounts of rainwater collection.

Factors such as rainfall data, the role of man-made and natural water bodies, routine maintenance, and proactive public participation will continue to form the backbone of future plans for stormwater management. In all aspects, Clark County is determined to render cost-effective solutions and ensure compliance with regulations to protect and improve storm water resources in Clark County, Washington.

Programs and Policies for Storm Water Management in Clark County

Current Policies for Storm Water Management

According to the information obtained from the official Clark County website, the region has instituted several proactive measures through the Clean Water Division program to identify, manage, and diminish challenges posed by stormwater to the county’s water bodies. This program aligns with the federal Clean Water Act and state regulations, focusing on the maintenance of stormwater, enforcing relevant regulations, facilitating public engagement, and making capital improvements to the stormwater system.

A significant milestone achieved by Clark County was the recent launch of the 2023-2028 Stormwater Capital Program aiming to shield water bodies by improving or establishing new stormwater facilities, preserving existing ones, and rehabilitating stream channels. In addition, new development or redevelopment projects are required to adhere to the stormwater regulations from 2016 in line with the Low Impact Development overview, an effort aimed at allowing water to seep into the ground close to its landing points.

Community Programs and Citizen Participation

Besides its stormwater policies, Clark County has invested in public outreach programs to promote the conservation and sustainability of water resources. A key initiative is the ‘Explore Your Watershed’ Project, culminating in an interactive watershed map that keeps residents informed about the health of their local streams.

Other community programs emphasize preservation of endangered salmon and steelhead populations, protection of private and public stormwater facilities, and promotion of clean water habits among locals. A public incident reporting system has been established to facilitate the reporting of spills, dumping, and other potential threats to water bodies, thereby fostering a collaborative and proactive community in stormwater conservation.

Policy Challenges and Proposed Solutions

Despite the laudable efforts made by Clark County in managing stormwater, several challenges persist. A prominent issue is the increasing population pressure, which necessitates a higher demand for clean waterways for both people and wildlife. An effective solution is the expansion of existing stormwater facilities and the development of new ones, opportunities provided for in the 2023-2028 Stormwater Capital Program.

Moreover, technological advancements, such as GIS mapping systems, have played a pivotal role in managing stormwater efficiently. For instance, the ‘Explore Your Watershed’ project has helped residents understand their roles in preserving their local streams’ health. This interactive platform can be extended further to report stormwater-related anomalies in real-time, thereby expediting response to such incidents.

Impact of Policies on Water Quality and Environment

The policies established by Clark County have had substantial impacts on both water quality and the local environment. Prioritizing the maintenance of stormwater leading to improved water quality in rivers, streams, and lakes. The 2016 stormwater regulations have also led to safer water due to improved filtering before it seeps into the ground, benefiting both humans and wildlife.

The community programs have generated increased environmental awareness among residents who are now more eager to contribute to water conservation initiatives. Initiatives like the 2023-2028 Stormwater Capital Program and the adoption of the 2016 stormwater regulations have significantly contributed to the preservation of natural habitats, thereby benefiting local flora and fauna.

A critical takeaway is that deliberate and sustained efforts, such as those undertaken by Clark County, can lead to substantial improvements in water quality and the overall health of the local environment. Continually involving the community lends more weight to these endeavors, enhancing the chances of achieving sustainable water management practices in the long run.

To benefit from the engineering perspective and cost-effective solutions to stormwater management, consider Soil Water Technologies’ experience and expertise. Their professional exercise of best management practices is peerless when it comes to ensuring compliance with regulations and the adoption of cost-effective solutions.

Case Studies of Storm Water Management in Clark County

Impact of Recent Storms on Water Management

Recent storm events in Clark County have underscored the critical importance of robust and reliable water management infrastructure, presenting a clear challenge to the existing arrangements and pointing the way toward necessary improvements. For example, the severe storm of 2018 led to significant flooding in certain parts of the county, putting into stark relief the vulnerabilities in the local storm water management system.

The impact of this flood event was felt across the county’s water management infrastructure, with both natural and man-made systems being put under immense strain. This event underlined the need for resilient, adaptable storm water systems that can withstand severe weather events and safeguard the communities they serve. High capacity and well-maintained storm water facilities, as well as a proactive and informed public, proved vital in limiting the damage inflicted by the storm.

Following the 2018 storm, the Clark County Clean Water Division undertook an extensive program of repair and restoration, focusing on priority areas identified in the aftermath of the flood. This initiative, which was conducted in full compliance with environmental regulations, involved the reconstruction of damaged storm water facilities, the clearing of debris from streams and waterways, and the strengthening of riverbanks and other structures vulnerable to erosion.

Lessons from Past Floods and Water-Related Disasters

Historical flood events in Clark County provide valuable lessons for current and future storm water management strategies. The infamous flood of 1996, for example, wrought considerable damage across the county, leading to significant improvements to the storm water infrastructure and a reassessment of best management practices.

In the wake of the 1996 disaster, the county expedited a series of measures aimed at strengthening its resilience against future floods. These included the upgrading of existing storm water facilities, the construction of new ones, the reinforcement of riverbanks and levees, and the implementation of stricter environmental regulations related to storm water management.

Moreover, these flood events highlighted the importance of public involvement in the management of storm water resources. The support and cooperation of local residents, community groups, and businesses proved critical in the recovery efforts. Encouraging an active and informed public is essential for effective storm water management, thus public education and engagement initiatives were bolstered in Clark County following these flood events.

Success Stories of Storm Water Management

Despite the challenges, there have been numerous success stories in Clark County’s storm water management history. For instance, the Clean Water Division’s sustained efforts to enforce strict environmental regulations and promote best management practices have yielded positive results in maintaining the quality of the county’s water resources.

The county’s Storm Water Capital Program, which is dedicated to the improvement of the storm water facilities, has achieved considerable success over the years. This was evident during the 2020 storm season, when the quick response and effectiveness of the county’s storm water facilities limited flood damage and protected both residents and the environment.

Furthermore, Clark County’s ‘Explore Your Watershed’ initiative has been particularly impactful, fostering public engagement with local water resources, and illuminating the vital importance of undiluted public participation in storm water management efforts. The initiative’s interactive map and other resources provide residents with useful information about their local stream health, enhancing overall awareness of water quality issues in the county.

Future Projections Based on Past Events

In light of past events and considering future projections, it is clear that Clark County will continue to face challenges related to storm water management. Population growth, urbanization, climate change, and the increasing frequency and intensity of storm events all point towards the need for adaptable, scalable, and cost-effective solutions.

Clark County’s future storm water management strategies must build on the experiences and lessons of past events, continuing to place a high priority on the protection of water quality and the resilience of the local water infrastructure. The fidelity to environmental regulations and best management practices, together with a commitment to public education and engagement, will be crucial in this regard.

The maintenance and upgrading of storm water infrastructure, the development and implementation of effective storm water policies, and the engagement with the public will all play an integral role in the county’s future efforts to manage storm water resources. By drawing on the lessons of the past and looking ahead to the challenges of the future, Clark County can strengthen its capacity to manage storm water resources in a way that benefits both people and the environment.


In conclusion, storm water management plays a fundamental role in preserving the environmental health and quality of life in Clark County. The various strategies implemented, ranging from infrastructure development to public engagement, contribute to meeting the challenges posed by storm water. The Clark County Clean Water Division’s commitment to best management practices and compliance with environmental regulations exemplifies the proactive and comprehensive approach necessary for effective storm water management. Furthermore, collaboration with partners such as swt engineering bolsters the county’s efforts, bringing invaluable expertise and cost-effective solutions. Moving forward, continuous innovation, public participation, and commitment to regulation adherence will be vital in navigating the evolving challenges of storm water management. This will ensure that Clark County remains equipped to provide a safe, environmentally friendly, and resilient locality for its

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