A discussion a couple of weeks ago on the NPS Information Exchange dealt with a question of terminology: What should we call the place where the stormwater goes?
The thread was started by someone who was in the process of creating a survey to gauge the public’s attitudes and behaviors about stormwater. She questioned whether the term “storm sewer,” which had been used in a previous survey, might be misleading, because it could suggest that water entering the storm sewer would ultimately be treated, just as water in the sanitary sewer system is.
One person responding to the initial message suggested the term “storm drain” instead, noting that it’s common in his part of the country (Maryland), but that there might be regional differences as to which term is more widely used.
Someone else noted that it depends on whether the system in question is for stormwater only—in which case it’s a storm drain—or is a combined storm/sanitary system, which would be a storm sewer.
Yet another respondent called the term sewer “antiquated” because a sewer is a place for waste, and we should be thinking of stormwater as a resource instead.
Although EPA permits refer to “municipal separate storm sewer systems,” or MS4s, the general public isn’t likely to be familiar with either the term or the acronym.
So let’s take a quick poll—which term is most commonly used where you are, and is there a different meaning in your area between “storm sewer” and “storm drain”?
The NPS Information Exchange, or NPSINFO, is EPA’s electronic mailing list for discussion of issues related to nonpoint-source pollution. You can find more information and subscribe at epa.gov/polwaste/nps.