Stormwater and Erosion Management

In developed areas, roofs, roads, culverts, pavement, and other impervious surfaces gather and redirect stormwater, preventing it from soaking into the ground. Concentrated runoff can quickly create localized erosion problems and cause creeks to rapidly rise. Unable to handle the increased water volume and flow, the creeks can experience collapsed banks, deepened channels, loss of habitat and aquatic life, and increased flooding and property damage. Stormwater can also carry a broad mix of potentially toxic chemicals, bacteria, sediments, fertilizers, oil and grease to nearby waterways. Large volumes of runoff can also impact hillsides causing gullying and even landslides.

How we can help. The RCD offers County residents confidential, no-cost drainage and erosion consultations along with cost-share incentives (dependent on available funding) for making improvements that reduce runoff and erosion. We promote what are known as low impact stormwater management techniques that mimic the natural water cycle to reduce erosion, keep harmful pollutants out of our creeks, improve habitat that also protecting your property. The types of practices we recommend include:

  • Ground Covers. Keeping soil covered with mulch or vegetation slows down water and allows for greater infiltration. It also protects soil from raindrop impact that induces erosion.
  • Water Catchment (Rain Barrels and Cisterns): Rainwater collection is an excellent opportunity to slow water down by temporarily storing it. Captured water can be reused for irrigation, fire protection or other non-potable options or metered off slowly after storm events to allow for infiltration and reduced flooding.
  • Rain Gardens: Rain gardens are vegetated basins installed at homes to capture and detain runoff, facilitate water infiltration and groundwater recharge while providing an aesthetic landscaping benefit to landowners.
  • Swales: Swales are shallow channels designed to convey, filter, and infiltrate stormwater runoff. They can be designed to be a meandering or almost straight depending on the amount land available on the site and be finished with vegetation and/or rocks bottoms.
  • Pervious surfaces: There are many new types of pervious materials that allow runoff to pass through and sink back into the soil. Some popular choices are paver stones, turf block and permeable asphalts and pavements.

We have also created a full color guide for homeowners titled Slow it, Spread it, Sink it! that provides an array of information for those interested in using these techniques at home. It is available in our resource library along with an array of other useful tools.

If you are looking for drainage and erosion control assistance for a private road, please visit our the Rural Road Program page.

Contact the RCD for assistance.

We have long been interested in harvesting rainwater and protecting the watersheds in the Santa Cruz mountains. Trying to gather ideas from various publications and the internet was daunting. The RCD helped us obtain the resources both for the tanks themselves and the expert people to install the systems. We feel that our new tanks that can harvest up to 7000 gallons of rainwater from our roof will help us through the drought years and for many years in the future! Thank you RCD. - Larry Bidinian and Joan Teitler, Felton

Conservation benefit: Reduce soil loss, protect water quality, and increase groundwater infiltration by using stormwater management techniques that mimic natural processes.

County of Santa Cruz
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Regional Water Management Foundation

Funders (curent and past):
County of Santa Cruz
Regional Water Quality Control Board
State Water Resources Control Board
United State Environmental Protection Agency

Stormwater Resource Library

RCD Contact: Angie Gruys

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