Urbanization greatly disturbs different ecosystems and particularly affects aquatic ecosystems during wet weather. Runoff can transport some of the pollutants accumulated during dry weather towards aquatic ecosystems along with the waste produced by numerous human activities (transport, industry, etc.). These flows of pollution, commonly called "urban wet weather flows", not only affect the physical, chemical and biological properties of receiving aquatic systems, but also modify the intended use of the water. The need to provide a solution to this problem explains the current increase in the number of studies devoted to the environmental impact of urban storm-water.
Urban wet weather flow studies began in the 1960’s and have permitted the assessment of the sources of pollutants, the order of magnitude of their concentrations and their flows produced. Urban storm-water pollutants are numerous and are of various origins: sewer system cleansing (scoured particles deposited during dry weather); rain wash-out of atmospheric gases and dusts (nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbon vapours, trace metals, aerosols, etc.); rainfall on roofs (copper, zinc, lead); and rain runoff from urban areas and waterproofed surfaces, which are covered with particles accumulated during dry weather. These particles have several sources: cars (hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, lead, rubber, zinc, cadmium, copper, titanium, chromium, aluminium, etc.); roads (cement and tar, paint used for road markings, sand and chemical de-icers, detergents, surfactants, etc.); industry (organic matter and organic micro-pollutants); animals (manure as a source of organic matter and bacterial and viral contaminations); solid wastes (plastic, various metals, papers, etc.); and plants (more or less easily biodegradable organic matter, nitrogen, phosphate and pesticide discharges). It is very difficult to define the composition of a standard urban wet weather flow, since the concentrations and flows of pollutants vary considerably according to the type of sewer network (combined, storm-water, etc.), the origin of the water (rainfall, road runoff, settling and infiltration tanks, sewer overflows, etc.), and, of course, the characteristics of the watershed (land use, etc.) and the prevailing weather.
Urban wet weather flows, impact, aquatic environment.
Jean-Claude Boisson, Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics de l’Etat (ENTPE), Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Environnement, rue Maurice Audin, 69518 VAULX-EN-VELIN, France