By TRISTAN ABOTT/Montana State News

The Montana Storm Water Conference will be conducted in April in Kalispell. Hosted by Montana Watercourse, the event will focus on strategies and solutions for managing storm water in Montana. The aridity of the Montana terrain makes this event especially important as there are many regions that can ill afford to waste water.

Storm water is any sort of water that is accumulated during a precipitation event. The majority of storm water in Montana comes from snowfall. Bozeman averages 18.5 inches of rainfall a year, as opposed to 85.9 in. of snow. This leads to a great deal of runoff, which is where the policies of storm water management become vital.

If it is not soaked into the ground, storm water runoff has two places that it can go. It can either go to surface waterways, such as fields and streams, or is channeled into storm sewers.  Montana ranks third in the continental United States in total steam miles, with over 170,000 miles of streams and rivers meandering through the state. Despite this, large amounts of water are lost in precipitation events.

The areas hardest hit by storm water management are primarily urban ones. Instead of soaking into the ground, the majority of storm water in urban areas is washed into storm drains. In this situation, there are two detrimental effects that are brought about. First, water is wasted. In the plains of Montana, the waste of water can be a disastrous event.

Second, storm water can gather pollutants on its way towards storm drains. This collection of pollutants in our water supply is costly to fix. In addition to that, Janet Bender-Keigley, program director for Montana Watercourse, said that the temperature of the storm water is often warmer than the receiving rivers and streams, which offers a threat to the native aquatic life.

“Currently, many municipalities have only sewer systems that carry all storm water and waste water to waste treatment plants. That is no longer acceptable”  said Bender-Keigley, pointing to the conference’s goal of reaching new ways to more efficiently manage storm water.