Tree Cover & Stormwater Runoff

News posted Apr. 13, 2018 - 6:00 am

There are many ways to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that accumulates during a rain storm, like collecting and reusing rainwater with a cistern, planting a rain garden to capture and clean rainwater, and installing pavement that allows rainwater to soak into the ground. All of these efforts help offset impacts that an area, like Raleigh, experiences when more impervious surfaces (like buildings and driveways) are added to green space.

While residents can make small changes to their daily routine to prevent water pollution from stormwater runoff, nature – specifically trees – is essential to reducing stormwater runoff, too. Trees provide an area for rainwater to land and absorb into the ground opposed to going directly to storm drains or local waterways. Tree roots also take in rainwater, which is good for soils and water quality. A tree canopy, or the leaves at the top of a tree, also capture and slow down rainwater. This decreases the amount of stormwater runoff that reaches the ground and lowers chances of streambank erosion from occurring.

Planting trees this spring? Here is a list of trees that are best to plant in Raleigh and that soak up rainwater: red maples, sweetbay magnolias, and willows.

The City also provides more flexibility with landscaping requirements (trees and shrubs) for parking lots and protective yards through its Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) initiative. To learn more, contact Raleigh Stormwater at 919-996-3940 or

This article was originally printed in the Stormwater Management Division's Urban Watersheds publication. Subscribe to learn more and to receive stormwater-related news.

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