Stormwater Management

Defining Stormwater

What Is This "Stuff" We Call Stormwater?

Do you know where the water goes when it rains? How about the water you use when you wash your car or water the lawn? Some of this water soaks into the ground but the rest of it runs off the land surface. It is this runoff water that we call Stormwater.

Stormwater, by itself, is not harmful to our environment. But as it travels across lawns, rooftops, roadways, and parking lots it picks up a variety of pollutants such as fertilizers, motor oils, sediments, trash and yard debris. All this "stuff" ends up in the nearest drainage inlet and subsequently discharges, untreated, into nearby receiving waterways, such as the Elizabeth River.

Polluted stormwater can harm fish, wildlife and plants, and can even contaminate drinking water. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that at least 50% of our nation's water pollution is caused by polluted stormwater runoff!

And if that's not bad enough, the "big stuff" in stormwater - like trash, leaves and grass clippings, contributes to street flooding by blocking the drainage inlets and clogging the underground storm drainage pipes.

The Chesapeake Club Campaign

Chesapeake Club Save the Crabs circular logo "save the crabs then eat 'em"

Landscaping for Your Waterways

Button that says "HR Storm"
Chesapeake Bay Button "TMDL FAQs"

Action Steps

So. . .What Do We Do About Stormwater?

In compliance with State and Federal Regulations, the City of Portsmouth operates a Stormwater Management Program to help improve the quality of stormwater runoff and to help reduce the quantity of stormwater runoff.

Program activities include construction of water control structures, ditch and pipe maintenance, water quality monitoring and testing, lake and pond management, enforcement of program standards and public education.


Portsmouth's Stormwater System is Comprised of:
  • Total Street Length - 335 miles
  • Street Length with Curb and Gutter - 247 miles
  • Street length with roadside ditches or other - 88 miles
  • Total Drainage Pipe Length - 159 miles
  • Length of pipe smaller than 15" - 12 miles
  • Length of Open ditches - 109 miles
  • Length of Roadside Ditches - 87 miles
  • Drainage Structures - 9000
  • Outfalls that discharge to area waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay - 488


The mission of the City of Portsmouth's stormwater management program is to safely and efficiently control runoff; protect public health and safety; protect property; minimize the discharge of pollutants to receiving waters; guide development and protect and enhance water quality in creeks and stormwater lakes in the community. The City's program will provide for construction, operation, maintenance and management of stormwater controls and will complement and support other City programs. The program shall include regulatory compliance, organized operations, sensible and adequate financial stability, and public education and outreach.

Commonwealth of Virginia Regulations

The City of Portsmouth is currently regulated under an MS4 (Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System) Permit administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
View of a lake and greenery
Portsmouth's stormwater drains to public and private lakes like this one.