What is Stormwater?Typical Stormwater found in the City’s storm drain system is water from precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement when it rains, snows or when ice melts. The water seeps into the ground or drains into what we call storm sewers. These are the drains you see at street corners or at low points on the sides of your streets.Collectively, the draining water is called stormwater runoff and is a concern to us in commercial and industrial sites, as well as your neighborhood, because of the pollutants it carries.
Yellowstone River Intakes and Outfalls
According to the 1996 National Water Quality Inventory, stormwater runoff is a leading source of water pollution. Stormwater runoff can harm surface waters such as rivers, lakes, and streams which in turn cause or contribute to water quality standards being exceeded.Stormwater runoff can change natural hydrologic patterns, accelerate stream flows, destroy aquatic habitats, and elevate pollutant concentrations and loadings. Development substantially increases impervious surfaces thereby increasing runoff from city streets, driveways, parking lots, and sidewalks, on which pollutants from human activities settle.
Common pollutants in runoff include pesticides, fertilizers, oils, metals, pathogens, salt, sediment, litter and other debris are transported via stormwater and discharged - untreated - to water resources through storm sewer systems.
Ditches & Drains Overview
Twenty-two ditches traverse Yellowstone County with six of those ditches located within the City limits. Many of the ditches are open waterways, however, there are several miles of culverts and pipes that carry ditch water beneath the city. In addition to ditches, there are also a series of open canals and piping that carry excess water away from the city during times of flooding, irrigation field runoff or for discharge of stormwater; these are called drains and are in various locations throughout the city. Ditches and drains are a valuable amenity to both the City and neighborhoods by providing natural water features, controlling stormwater runoff, and providing trail corridors.
Where does ditch water eventually end up?
It is important realize to that several of the ditches and all of the drains eventually discharge to the Yellowstone River. Dumping of yard wastes, chemicals, trash or debris can potentially cause flooding within the ditches and drains, backups in the City’s stormwater collection system, as well as pollute the Yellowstone River.
Who owns and maintains ditches?
The main ditches within the county are controlled and maintained through ditch easements by private ditch companies, not the City of Billings. Permission from the ditch companies is required to divert or alter the course of the ditches, construct ditch crossings, discharge stormwater into ditches, and to use irrigation water.
More information on responsibilities of landowners adjacent to the ditches can be found HERE.
Where are ditches and drains located?
To view the ditches and drains located within Billings, click on the map link below:
Pollutants that enter our local waterways through the storm drain system affect water quality, make swimming potentially unsafe, and impair fish habitat. These pollutants can be absorbed by fish possibly making their consumption harmful. Dumping anything, accidentally or purposely, into a gutter, ditch, or storm drain is illegal and violators can be issued civil penalties. These illegal actions are known as Illicit Discharges.
Illicit Discharge Examples
- Dumping household chemicals
- Dumping leaves and yard waste
- Dumping motor oil
- Sanitary waste water (sewage)
- Car wash waste waters
- Litter and garbage
- Pet waste
- Sediment from construction sites
What Can you do?
- Dispose of paint cleaners and other household chemicals according to label directions
- When at home, wash your car so that wastewater drains to grass, not the storm drain system
- Promptly clean up after your pet
- Recycle used motor oil at participating centers
- Vegetate bare areas to reduce soil erosion
Illicit Discharge Detection And Elimination (IDDE)
To Improve our water quality and to stay in compliance with state and federal regulations, the City of Billings has adopted an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) Ordinance. This ordinance prohibits pollutants from entering our local waters, regulates connections to the storm sewer systems, and outlines enforcement procedures and penalties.
To report an illicit discharge, please contact: 406-247-8517
The City of Billings is a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) co-permittee with Montana Department of Transportation. The City also has a MS4 partnership with Yellowstone County. The MS4 General Permit requires permittees to develop, implement, and enforce a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP). The SWMP shall be designed to reduce the discharge of pollutants from the permitted MS4 to the Maximum Extent Practicable (MEP), to protect water quality, and satisfy the appropriate water quality requirements of the Montana Water Quality Act. The SWMP must include Best Management Practices (BMP), control techniques, good standard engineering practices, and other provision necessary to control pollutants.
The City of Billings Stormwater Program consists of BMPs from the following categories:
- Construction Runoff Management
- Post Construction Stormwater Management for New and Redevelopment
- Public Education and Outreach
- Public Participation and Involvement
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Pollution Prevention for Municipal Operations
Stormwater runoff is a significant source of water pollution on Billings west end as it transitions from agriculture to residential and commercial development. Urban development increases runoff and flushed pollutants in to the storm drain system.
The 66-acre Shiloh Conservation Area was constructed as a stormwater control and treatment complex located at the confluence of Shiloh Drain, an old agricultural drain ditch that is now functioning as a storm drain outfall, and Hogan’s Slough, a natural waterway that is also a primary drainage for the Billings west end.
A Community Resource
The Shiloh Conservation Area Balances the objectives of water quality improvement and flood control, while also providing recreational and educational benefits to the community. The site consists of sedimentation, treatment wetland cells, wet detention ponds with wetland fringe area, and a third pond at the end of the treatment chain that is stocked by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks providing an urban fishery. There is a 2 mile system of trails that runs throughout the Shiloh Conservation Area. The trail system includes a shelter at the fishing pond, a series of interpretive signs, and viewing platforms that connect directly to the Billings Heritage Trail Network.