Stormwater Management Program

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Keep It Clean, Harrisonburg

Stormwater Management is our community's effort to provide water quality protection of our streams and rivers. The City of Harrisonburg's Stormwater Management Program is a city-wide effort depending on the cooperation of nearly all city departments (most often Department of Public Works, Department of Community Development and Planning, Department of Public Utilities, and the Department of Parks and Recreation) and citizens like you!  

Visit for information on how you can help our local waterways and upcoming events.



Notify HarrisonburgReceive notifications about the Stormwater Utility Ordinance and Fee, volunteer opportunities (i.e. stream clean up and plantings), workshops, and other related stormwater and environmental events sponsored by the City. Subscribe here.


Stormwater drop inletWhat is stormwater runoff?

Stormwater runoff is the rain and snowmelt that flows over the ground and into the City's storm sewer system or directly into Blacks Run and other waterways. In undeveloped areas such as grasslands and forests, the surface flow of water is slowed by vegetation; some of the water then seeps into the ground. In urban areas, buildings, roads, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces do not allow for rain and snowmelt to soak into the ground. This results in faster flow of runoff. Stormwater runoff picks up pollutants such as oil, dirt, chemicals, and lawn fertilizers and carries them to Blacks Run and waterways, where they seriously harm water quality.


What is the problem with stormwater runoff?

Each time it rains, the resulting runoff of stormwater picks up debris, litter, pesticides, chemicals, motor oil, and sediment as it flows across rooftops and lawns, streets, and parking lots. A common misconception is that water running off streets and into storm drains goes to a waste-water treatment plant. It does not. In fact, stormwater receives no treatment. 

Excessive contamination of runoff can cause sedimentation and erosion of our streams, water quality degradation, and unhealthy water conditions for humans and wildlife. 


Two underground systemsWhat kind of drainage system does the city have? 

The City's storm water system is described as a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). This means that the City's storm sewer system is completely separate from the sanitary sewer system. The City's sanitary sewage flows through sanitary sewer pipes to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Regional Sewer Authority (waste-water treatment plant) located in Mt. Crawford, VA, while stormwater drains untreated directly into local surface waters like Blacks Run. A variety of structures and landforms, both natural and artificial, are considered to be part of the MS4. These include inlets, pipes, grass and concrete channels, earth berms, ditches, box culverts, detention basins, and even sinkholes. All of these are part of the terrain which storm water travels on its way to streams, lakes, and rivers. 


Why is storm water management important?

Urbanization can increase the quantity and decrease the quality of runoff. Historically, cities have focused their storm water management programs on reducing the effects of flooding.  In recent years, in response to Federal and State initiatives, the focus has begun to also include the issue of water quality degradation. Today, storm water management programs address issues from preventing pollution to controlling erosion. Water quality is often addressed through implementing Best Management Practices, public education and involvement, and reduction of illicit pollution discharges.