What is stormwater?

Stormwater is water that originates during precipitation events and snow/ice melt. Stormwater can soak into the soil (infiltrate), be held on the surface and evaporate, or runoff and end up in nearby streams, rivers, or other water bodies (surface water).

In natural landscapes such as forests, the soil absorbs much of the stormwater and plants help hold stormwater close to where it falls. In developed environments, unmanaged stormwater can create two major issues: one related to the volume and timing of runoff water (flooding) and the other related to potential contaminants that the water is carrying (water pollution).

Stormwater impacts on water quality and quantity

In developed areas  surface runoff is traditionally conveyed directly into receiving water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, streams or the ocean. Water is collected from roads, roofs and other impermeable surfaces and transported though stormwater infrastructure such as drains, pipes, culverts and other water carrying systems. The stormwater carries trash, sediment, bacteria, heavy metals and other pollutants from the landscape, degrading the quality of the receiving waters. Higher flows can also cause erosion and flooding in streams, damaging habitat, property and infrastructure.

Combined sewer systems

Many of our municipal sewage systems in  in the Annapolis watershed use combined sewage and stormwater collection. Combined sewer systems collect sewage from houses, businesses, etc. as well as surface runoff. During high intensity precipitation or snowmelt events the amount of stormwater collected by these combined systems can  exceed the capacity of the sewage treatment plant they are connected to, resulting in untreated sewage waste overflowing into receiving waters. 

In summary...

In summary, stormwater impacts water quality and quantity by:

  • transporting pollution (e.g., sediment, nutrients, debris, household hazardous wastes) directly or indirectly via storm sewer systems into rivers, lakes and streams;

  • eroding shorelines, by increasing the volume and velocity of runoff entering receiving water bodies;

  • flooding basements and/or on property;

  • warming up surface water, making it more susceptible to waterborne bacteria and hazardous to fragile aquatic life;

  • overflowing sewage treatment facilities, allowing untreated human waste to flow directly into receiving water bodies.

(Source: Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation)

What are we doing?  2019-2020 project activities


(1) Managing water at home: FREE household stormwater management & water conservation home assessment program

CARP and BCAF are recruiting homeowners to participate in a home assessment program that will identify actions to improve the management and use of freshwater on their properties. Assessments will focus on water consumption and stormwater runoff issues in order to identify conservation and management options.


During initial visits, home assessors will work with homeowners and residents to conduct a review of:

  • Current household water use practices

  • Current fixtures (eg. low flow toilets, faucets)

  • Current use of water conservation devices or practices

  • Recent water bills & water consumption rates

  • Current stormwater management practices (gutters, rain barrels)

  • Existing stormwater related issues (eg. flooding)

  • Amount of hard surface (eg. roofs, paving) to determine surface water flow during rain events


This information will be used to create a property specific report that outlines recommendations and establishes an action plan that can be implemented by residents in order manage issues with stormwater (eg. flooding) or to support water conservation.


The home assessment program is open to residents of Kings, Annapolis, Digby, Yarmouth, Shelburne, Lunenburg and Queens Counties. Contact our project leader, Samantha, for more information or to register. 

(2) Public workshop and seminars

CARP and BCAF will be hosting a series of free public seminars and workshops focusing on anticipated climate change impacts on water quality and quantity in Southwest Nova Scotia and actions that individuals can take to mitigate these impacts. Visit our events page to check for dates/locations. We will also be providing educational programming for students in elementary adn high school. 

(3) Working with small businesses to implement water conservation practices

We are partnering with local businesses to install large rainwater collection systems (1000L). Examples of businesses include plant nurseries, which have high water demands and where harvested rainwater is a suitable substitute for treated municipal or well water. Educational signage will be installed at the sites in order to encourage customers and other visitors to consider adopting similar practices. 

Educational Resource Materials: Managing Water in Response to a Changing Climate in Southwest Nova Scotia

Past work: Soaking Up Stormwater

The Soaking up Stormwater project supported the creation of a number of public demonstration sites utilizing low impact design (LID) stormwater management techniques (e.g., rain gardens, bioswales, etc.).  The project allowed CARP and BCAF to establish working relationships with   Municipal partners on the implementation of strategies to slow down the stormwater, spread it out into or over pervious surfaces, and sink it back into the ground as opposed to more costly infrastructure projects.

Rain garden and low impact design (LID) demonstration sites

A rain garden is a planted depression or a hole that allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas, like roofs, driveways, walkways, parking lots, and compacted lawn areas, the opportunity to be absorbed. This reduces rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground (as opposed to flowing into storm drains and surface waters 

A complex of 6 rain gardens was created at the "Hospital Hill" site in Digby. A dry swale and raised bed were also constructed at this site. These gardens are incorporated into a larger initiative to develop the site into a public green-space. 


CARP partnered with NSCC Middleton to construct 2 rain gardens and a dry creek bed to channel surface water. Additional work is planned for this site in 2019. 




Sign-up for our free Home Assessment program (read more below)

Educational Resource Kits are now online 

Our stormwater and water conservation projects is undertaken in partnership with Coastal Action. Learn more about them here.

Update photos taken in Fall 2018  at the Digby rain garden site

Update photo taken in Fall 2018  at the NSCC Middleton rain garden site


Slow it, spread it, sink it - stormwater management option for your property

Atlantic Stormwater Initiative - The goal of Clean Foundation’s Atlantic Stormwater Initiative (ASI) is to bring effective stormwater management into the mainstream.

RAIN Community Solutions RAIN Community Solutions helps communities manage rain where it falls to save money, reduce flood risk, and protect our water.

Thanks to our 2019 program funders

Past program funders