Stormwater Management Program

Stormwater flowing through gutter



See Where We Are Working on Stormwater and Climate Issues




Save water infographic


What is Stormwater Runoff?

Stormwater runoff results when precipitation from rain and snowmelt flows over the landscape and does not soak into the ground due to impervious surfaces, carrying pollutants into waterways and the ocean. Impervious surfaces are areas such as parking lots, sidewalks, streets and other surfaces that prevent water from soaking into the ground. Stormwater is a major source of inland flooding and coastal pollution in Salem.  

The amount of stormwater runoff we see every rainstorm is a direct parallel to the amount of paved and hardened surfaces that cover our landscape. Solutions can include rain gardens and bio-swales, Low-impact Development, promoting urban green space and using rain barrels and other rain storage systems.

Municipal strategies to managing stormwater come in the form of an effective and well-maintained stormwater drainage system (storm drains, drainage pipes and outfalls), rain gardens, bioswales, public education, and stormwater management policy. To read Salem's management plan for stormwater, please visit the downloadable files section at the bottom of this page! To learn more about Massachusetts MS4 Stormwater permitting, please click here!

What is Stormwater?

Why Should We Reduce our Stormwater Runoff?

Water Quality - As the runoff flows over impervious surfaces (paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops), it accumulates debris, plastics, oils, pet waste, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants.  The pollutants picked up by the runoff are either transported directly into the nearby waterbodies or washed into the city's collection system then discharged into local rivers/streams and the ocean.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies indicate that stormwater runoff is one of the most significant sources of non-point source water pollution.

Water Quantity -  Rain and snowmelt that do not soak into the ground, runoff increasing the flows entering the city’s drainage system.  When the drainage system is at capacity surface ponding and flooding may occur.  Runoff also reduces the groundwater table and recharges surface water much faster resulting and rivers and streams rising above their banks.

Stormwater pollution


Flooded Bridge Street
  • Inland flooding in urban areas
  • Damage to cars, homes, property loss
  • Surges of pollution into Salem Harbor including plastics, oils, grease, fecal matter and toxic chemicals
  • Potential contact with disease-causing organisms
  • Increased drainage operation and maintenance costs
  • Expensive and unpleasant cleanup after flooding that often must be paid for by the taxpayer
  • Potential penalization for non-compliance with state stormwater regulations



Greenscapes pledge
  • Utilize a rain barrel at home and work if appropriate
  • Use stormwater mitigating design and building techniques
  • Reducing lawn watering to once weekly and consider using "grey water" for landscaping and gardening
  • Consider resurfacing your driveway with a porous surface instead of asphalt or concrete
  • Build a rain garden - Work with a neighborhood group, install one at home or install one at work if appropriate
  • Help support low impact development and stormwater mitigation in local, regional and national politics

To learn more about stormwater runoff, please visit the Massachusetts Greenscapes Coalition

To learn more about solutions to stormwater runoff in Salem, please visit Salem Sound Coastwatch or call the Engineering Department at 978-745-9595

Check out our new rain garden at Winter Island Campground!