Nine Ways to Start Connecting Stormwater and Floodplain Management: A New Report

Nine Ways to Start Connecting Stormwater and  Floodplain Management: A New Report

By Nicole Maness and Carrie Sanneman


stormwater and floodplains graphic

Stormwater is the runoff from rain that picks up pollutants, such as the oil from our driveways or the fertilizer in our yards, before flowing into sewer drains and then into local waterways. Floodplains are the lands around rivers, lakes, and streams that take on excess water in times of flooding. Even though stormwater quickly becomes part of a river’s flow and can contribute to flooding, floodplains and stormwater are completely separate in the eyes of the law. Graphic: Willamette Partnership

The land next to our rivers—our floodplains—and the rain runoff that meets them—stormwater—are hydrologically connected but managed separately under environmental laws. If the effects storms and floods have on rivers and floodplains are connected, why shouldn’t their management be? Our new report offers nine ways to start integrating stormwater and floodplain management for cleaner, healthier rivers.

There is growing recognition among water resource managers, scientists, and planners that today’s water-related challenges cannot be solved by working on wastewater, stormwater, drinking water, groundwater, and floodwater issues separately. Our multi-faceted problems must be addressed with integrated solutions.

Over the past year, Willamette Partnership and the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies have been collaborating to better understand the intersection between stormwater and floodplain management. The results of that collaboration are summarized in a new report, “Bridging the Divide: Connecting Stormwater and Floodplain Management in Oregon,” which provides nine concrete recommendations decision-makers and water resource managers can start using right now to connect the two.

In Oregon, this has become particularly relevant. Now that the state and federal regulatory programs that govern floodplains and stormwater are changing, there’s an opportunity to align each with the other, or better yet, seek an integrated approach to managing water during storms and floods.

So, what can you do right now in your community to making space for integrated projects, policies, plans, or communication initiatives? Here’s a start:

  1. Join the Clean Rivers Coalition: There is an effort underway to coordinate the communication efforts around water and water resource management in Oregon. The Clean Rivers Coalition is just getting started and has the potential to make it cheaper and easier for municipalities and utilities to deliver consistent, high-quality messages to the public and decision-makers. Visit the Clean Rivers Coalition website and sign up for their newsletter.
  2. Get to know your water resources manager counterpart: Floodplain managers, do you know who plans and operates your local stormwater management system? Stormwater managers, do you know the certified floodplain manager in your county? Too often, the answer to these questions is “no.” Reach out to your counterpart to set up a time to meet them and understand their core responsibilities and actions. It’s that simple to start a relationship that could yield better coordination in the planning and delivery of local surface water resource management objectives.
  3. Disseminate findings of the “Bridging the Divide” report: Send the report to a colleague and let them know some of the specific takeaways. Colleagues are considered a highly credible source of new information and speaking to coworkers or counterparts about this topic could be a more effective way to spread the message than other ways that they might hear about it (e.g., website, social media, via email).

And if you’re ready to do more, check out the report for recommended longer-term actions.

In the end, there is no single approach to integrated water resources management. Instead, a number of different strategies will need to be implemented by a number of different people in order to start bridging the divide between the silos of water management. Integration might look different in each community in Oregon but will likely be driven by some common goals: cleaner water, safer communities, and resilient ecosystems. We hope that the findings presented in this report are helpful in moving toward that common future.

Bridging the Divide report cover_tilt

Bridging the Divide: Connecting Stormwater and Floodplain Management in Oregon

Carrie Sanneman was Willamette Partnership’s Clean Water Program Manager. She specializes in collaboration for clean water and natural infrastructure. Carrie holds an interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School and Bachelors of Science in Biology and Environmental Studies from Iowa State University.


  1. Ellie Davis 6 years ago

    I like where you suggest that you should be aware of your local runoff plan and management system. Hopefully, everyone has a plan for stormwater management. And if they don’t they should really look into hiring or getting someone to help with this management.

  2. Erin 2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing the information and the report, this really helps me understand stormwater and floodplain management.

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