The Storm Water Crisis

Updated: Aug 18

We at Lovett Keshet Studio are dedicated to helping solve the urban & suburban storm water crisis.


As urban and suburban areas develop and transform once permeable land into impermeable surface, either as buildings, urban infrastructure, roadways, or parking facilities, water from rain and storm events moves much more quickly and directly into municipal storm drains. In urban areas, storm events may be costly to home and business owners and damaging to the environment. In suburban areas, increased runoff contributes to intensified stream-flow and the eroding of hillsides and creek banks, both of which may destabilize homes and infrastructure and disturb natural habitats. In large storm events, excess runoff may contribute to overflows from combined sewer systems (i.e., storm and sanitary), pollution of rivers with fertilizers, sewage, oil and sediment, destruction of aquatic and riparian habitats, and property damage.

Combined sewer overflows occur when surge events in storm water create situations in which the mix of storm water and sewage backs up into streets, overflows into rivers, or even floods basement and first floors of building through their plumbing outlets.



Property damage occurs as storm water runoff overwhelms the municipal infrastructure and water or a mix of water and sewage backs up into streets and basements. The flooding is both damaging and unsanitary. Municipal infrastructure is also at risk, as more stress is placed on aging storm water systems.

Rivers and streams are polluted as storm water moves quickly across impermeable surfaces, such as roadways and parking lots, collecting oils and chemicals and washing them directly into rivers. Permeable ground slows the flow of water, which picks up less sediment and slowly seeps through the ground, which filters it.



Wildlife habitats may be destroyed as the sediments and oils are picked up and washed into streams and rivers. The banks of streams and creeks may also be transformed in high-flow events, disturbing natural wildlife conditions.

Local municipalities are also held accountable for the effects of their runoff by the federal government. The Clean Water Act, passed by Congress in 1972, establishes water quality standards for surface water. States enforce these standards by regulating combined storm-sewer overflow points and regulating runoff in areas with separated sewers.

Municipalities are increasingly focused on developing solutions that rely on both public and private investment to manage storm water. Faced with either upgrading or replacing their storm water systems to handle the increased demand (a costly and politically challenging expense) or implementing policies that regulate and mitigate increased non-permeable areas, most municipalities choose the latter.



Public investment often involves strategies of “greening” cities by increasing plant life along street frontages and within parks. Trees, bushes, and other plant life can remove significant amounts of water from the ground surface.

Private investment in storm water management is encouraged in primarily two ways: through storm water fees and through development regulations and incentives.

At Lovett Keshet Studio, we are currently in product development for new storm water management strategies that can be implemented across a wider range of building types. Our particular focus is on products that could be used to retrofit older building stock where existing SMPs are either structurally infeasible or cost prohibitive. Stay tuned for upcoming developments.