Water > Urban Runoff and Stormwater Management

As rain falls and washes over rooftops, streets, and parking lots, it collects dirt, trash, and other pollutants and often carries them into rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans. Consider taking steps to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from your sports facilities.

Tips to reduce urban runoff:

  • Sweep sidewalks and other pervious surfaces instead of washing with a hose.

  • Consider permeable surface alternatives to conventional asphalt and concrete.

  • Maximize other permeable surfaces and vegetated areas such as rain gardens, bioswales (landscape features designed to remove pollution from surface runoff water), lawns, and landscaped areas.

  • Consider planting grass and other plants on rooftops. By planting vegetation on the roof of your sports facilities you reduce summer cooling loads, absorb greenhouse gases, and reduce water runoff.

For more information on green roofs visit the Greener Roofs page of this guide. For more information on stormwater reduction, see the resources below.


Urban runoff and stormwater management at your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Water” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning up to 9 points for the STARS Water subcategory, encompassing the credits “OP 26: Water Use,” “OP 27: Rainwater Management,” and “OP 28: Wastewater Management.” Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


In many parts of the country, urban runoff is the single greatest source of water pollution. In addition to dirt and debris, urban runoff can include such toxic components as oil and heavy metals like lead and mercury, in addition to other pollutants that might find their way onto roads and rooftops.

These pollutants have a negative effect on drinking water supplies, recreation, and wildlife. By taking steps to minimize urban runoff, your sports departments can help reduce these negative impacts.


>> In 2012, Princeton University’s Athletics renovated its field hockey turf to incorporate an upgraded drainage system that can hold water longer, reducing the need to re-water while also providing rapid surface drainage to prevent puddles. The turf drainage system allows the water to recharge groundwater and eliminates runoff into the stormwater system. It is designed to retain 100 percent of the water from a 100-year storm, exceeding Princeton’s sustainability goal for stormwater management. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> The University of North Texas’ LEED Platinum Apogee Stadium features permeable ground, which, combined with the native landscaping, reduces stormwater runoff and minimizes the heat island effect. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> In 2009, University of Arizona did an $18.6 million expansion of their Student Recreation Center and achieved LEED Platinum certification. Landscaped areas at the recreation center were designed to promote passive stormwater harvesting, using filtration basins and increased permeability to reduce runoff. Water harvesting and stormwater management techniques include bioswales (which help remove pollution from stormwater runoff), a percolation bed beneath the volleyball court, and the capturing of HVAC condensation for irrigation. The water retention basin built under the volleyball courts stores rainwater collected from the center’s roof and allows the water to percolate into the ground, helping to minimize stormwater runoff.  To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

>> The University of Minnesota’s LEED Silver TCF Bank Stadium includes a stormwater management system that allows rainwater to be directed into an underground filtering system outside the stadium, where it is filtered and drained into the Mississippi River. (The stadium’s extensive, award-winning stormwater system manages the quality and the rate of discharge to the Mississippi River to a level that emulates conditions before human settlement of the area.) Potable water use for landscape irrigation was reduced by 50 percent relative to a standard building of the same size and type. Metro Blooms awarded UM with its annual “Best Public Rain Garden” award in 2009. As part of the TCF Bank Stadium site refurbishment, Gopher Athletics planted an entire city block’s worth of bioswales (rain gardens) using only native plants that require less water, including wildflowers and grasses. Porous pavement and roof rainwater catchment infrastructure help capture and direct the water to the plants. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report

>> The University of Connecticut’s Burton Family Football Complex features permeable pavement and bioswales around the facility also help clean stormwater and reduce runoff that might otherwise cause sedimentation, erosion, and flooding. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.


>> In September 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves installed the first green roof on any North American arena, spanning 2.5 acres (115,000 square feet) across the Target Center in Minneapolis. Currently, this is the nation’s fifth-largest green roof on any facility. The roof captures nearly 1 million gallons of stormwater a year, which saves $10,000 annually in stormwater charges and prevents runoff into the Mississippi River. In addition, the green roof helps alleviate the urban heat island effect. The roof is planted with a variety of native Minnesotan prairie plants, including lupines, to support the endangered Karner blue butterfly. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> The Seattle Thunderbirds’ LEED Gold Showare Center features a stormwater collection system that sends runoff to adjacent wetlands. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Game Changer report.

>> The New York Mets’ Citi Field features a 15,000-square-foot green roof, which reduces energy demand by acting as extra insulation, retaining cool air in the summer and heat in the winter. The green roof also reduces water consumption and diverts approximately 80 percent of stormwater runoff. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Game Changer report.


NRDC – From Rooftops to Rivers: Green Strategies for Controlling Stormwater and CSO
NRDC – Strategies to Control Stormwater Runoff
NRDC – Water
AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual
EPA – Urban Runoff Fact Sheet
EPA: Bioretention (Rain Gardens) Fact Sheet
City of Santa Monica – Urban Runoff
Links to several reports on stormwater runoff
Pervious Pavement information
Stormwater Manager’s Resource Center