Storm Water Curb

Storm water cross walk

Stormwater curb extensions and overflow structures, City of Burlingame, Carolan Ave., photos courtesy of Matt Fabry

Stormwater runoff begins when rainwater falls on impervious surfaces, including roads, rooftops, and parking lots.  Unable to soak into the ground, stormwater runoff carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, oil, and other pollutants.  Stormwater runoff is a major source of water pollution in most urban areas, which captures it in engineered collection systems and discharges it into nearby water bodies.  High rainfall events can cause erosion and flooding, which damages property, infrastructure, and habitat.

Green infrastructure and low impact development are ecosystem-based approaches to constructing stormwater controls that mimic the natural environment in an urban environment.  These approaches use natural processes, vegetation, and soils to manage stormwater, providing habitat, water storage, flood protection, cleaner water, and cleaner air.  Compost and mulch are components of green infrastructure and low impact development used to improve soil properties and thereby increase water infiltration and storage, improve plant establishment and health, reduce stormwater runoff, and absorb and retain pollutants.

Rain garden replaced asphaltRain garden retrofit replaced excess asphalt as part of green infrastructure project in Berkeley, photo courtesy of Matt Fabry

Green infrastructure and low impact development systems and treatments that use compost and mulch include the following:


  • Increases water infiltration
  • Increases soil water holding capacity
  • Absorbs and retains pollutants
  • Helps establish healthy vegetation



Faucette, L.B. et al (2005). Evaluation of stormwater from compost and conventional erosion control practices in construction activities. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 60(6):288-297.