Stormwater & Drainage Systems - How They Work

Stormwater & Drainage Systems – How They Work

by | Feb 11, 2023

When the skies turn dark and the rain begins to pour, the last thing on our minds is the safety of our homes and businesses. But as the devastating effects of major flooding like the August 2021 Middle Tennessee disaster have shown us, the importance of effective stormwater and drainage systems cannot be underestimated. With 20 lives lost, hundreds of damaged properties, and a need for federal efforts for recovery, it’s clear that these systems play a crucial role in keeping our communities safe and secure.

Understanding how these systems work is essential for proper maintenance and effective management of potential flood risk. From the collection of runoff water to its safe discharge, these intricate systems utilize a combination of pipes, catch basins, and retention ponds to manage excess rainwater and prevent potential damage. Whether you’re a homeowner, business owner, or just curious about the science behind stormwater management, discover how these intricate systems work and how they work to protect our communities and the environment.


What are Stormwater & Drainage Systems?

Stormwater and drainage systems may not always be the center of attention, but they are an essential part of the infrastructure that keeps our communities protected. From the hidden pipes and catch basins to the retention ponds, these systems work behind the scenes to redirect excess water away from streets, schools, and homes during heavy rainfall. Though often overlooked, the vital role these systems play in preventing floods and protecting our neighborhoods and properties cannot be understated.


How Do They Work?

From the bustling city of Nashville to the quiet suburban city of Spring Hill, stormwater and drainage systems work towards keeping our communities safe and protected from the damage of heavy rainfall. Essentially, stormwater and drainage systems are designed to manage and control excess water flow during heavy rainfall or other precipitation events.

The basic principle of these systems is to direct excess rainfall away from roads, buildings, and other structures and push them into the appropriate waterways, such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands. This is achieved through a combination of surface and subsurface drainage channels, like catch basins, pipes, and stormwater ponds.


The Importance of Stormwater Drainage

As the frequency and severity of major weather events continue to increase, the importance of effective stormwater drainage systems becomes even more important. From reducing the risk of flooding to protecting water quality, there are numerous benefits to investing in a well-designed and properly maintained stormwater drainage system.

  • Reduces Flood Risk: Heavy rainfall runoff can lead to serious flooding issues if not properly managed. That’s where stormwater drainage comes in. Stormwater drainage systems work by directing excess rainwater away from roads, buildings, and other structures, and into appropriate waterways. This helps to mitigate damage caused by heavy rainfall and slows down the potential for flooding or surges. The systems utilize a combination of pipes, catch basins, and retention ponds to efficiently redirect excess water, making them a critical component in managing flood risk.


  • Improves Water Quality: In the United States, polluted runoff is a major threat to clean water. Fertilizers, oil, pesticides, dirt, bacteria, and other pollutants can contaminate our waterways and compromise the quality of water, affecting aquatic ecosystems and the safety of our drinking water supplies. Stormwater drainage systems play a crucial role in protecting water quality by reducing the risk of contamination. By efficiently directing excess rainwater away from roads and buildings, these systems help maintain the purity of our waterways, preserve the health of aquatic ecosystems, and ensure the safety of our drinking water supplies.


  • Prevent Environmental Damages: Stormwater drainage systems play an important role in protecting our natural habitats and ecosystems. Excess water runoff can cause damage to streams, lakes, and rivers by eroding banks, washing away important habitats, and increasing sedimentation. By directing excess water into appropriate waterways, drainage systems help to prevent these environmental damages, preserving the health and biodiversity of our Tennessee waterways.


Learn more about stormwater and drainage systems in cities and why they are important in the video below.


Types of Stormwater & Drainage Systems

Efficient management of stormwater is a key component in protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable urban development. When a city is faced with a surplus of excess water, various stormwater and drainage systems are put in place to collect and transport runoff. While these systems vary in design, each system is tailored to provide effective solutions for controlling water flow. Let’s take a look at the four most commonly used stormwater and drainage systems in Middle Tennessee.

  1. Surface Drainage Systems are designed to collect and transport water runoff on the surface of the ground. It is typically comprised of channels, open drains, swales, ditches, or catch basins that are placed in low-lying areas or near areas of concentrated runoff. This system helps prevent water from pooling in specific areas that may cause damage to property or the environment.
  2. Subsurface Drainage Systems are designed to collect and transport water that has infiltrated the ground. They are typically installed in areas with high water tables or in soils with poor drainage. These systems are made up of perforated pipes or tiles placed underground and connected to a discharge point (i.e. French drain).
  3. Slope Drainage Systems are designed to allow water to flow downward away from structures. It is typically comprised of pipes anchored on an incline that are placed along the slope to transport water runoff. This system helps prevent water from reaching nearby structures.
  4. Downspouts and Gutter Systems are designed to collect and transport water from roofs. They are typically comprised of gutters that are installed along the edges of a roof and connected to downspouts that transport water to the ground or to a drain. This system is the first defense in helping prevent water from pooling on a roof and causing damage to the building.


Flooding in Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee has experienced several devastating floods throughout its history, some of which have had significant impacts on the region. In 2010, Nashville experienced one of the worst floods in its history, with the Cumberland River reaching record levels near 52 feet and causing widespread damage to homes and businesses. In August 2021, Middle Tennessee was struck by a deadly weekend storm that resulted in flash flooding in many communities.

Despite the challenges, recovery efforts were underway to help rebuild the affected areas. However, it highlights the importance of having proper stormwater and drainage systems in place to quickly displace excess water and minimize the extent of damage in the future.

Take a look at the devastation of some of the most severe floods to impact Middle Tennessee through the videos below.


About Reed Land & Hardscaping

Stay ahead of the weather with our proactive stormwater and drainage solutions. Our team is dedicated to ensuring the efficient drainage of excess rainfall at your commercial properties, no matter what the weather conditions may be in Nashville.

Reed Landscaping is Middle Tennessee’s most versatile landscape construction, hardscape, and site contractor. There’s no job that Reed Landscaping can’t handle–especially when it comes to proactive stormwater and drainage systems! With extensive experience in drainage systems in cities like Nashville, Reed Landscaping can provide professional services for a project of any size. With the launch of our new website, Reed Landscaping is excited to showcase our completed projects and stormwater and drainage system pictures here.

If you’re ready to start your project, reach out to Reed Landscaping. Our team of stormwater and drainage systems experts will help you achieve the look and feel you are searching for on your next construction project.

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