Stormwater Management

Responsible Management

With every storm and snowmelt event, thousands of gallons of water enter CSU’s storm drains and flow to the Cache La Poudre River and Spring Creek. Pollutants such as pesticides, oil, metals, sediment, and animal waste can be picked up and carried by the water. Stormwater pollution can come from incidental deposits of dust and oil on parking lots which are washed off with rain and snowmelt; but pollution also comes from outdoor washing activities, intentional dumping and accidental spills of chemicals. Environmental regulations are in place to minimize stormwater contamination and address the nature and extent of “nonpoint source” pollution. The regulations aim to protect rivers and lakes from pollutants and sediments that can harm aquatic organisms including insects and fish. Certain fish species are more sensitive to metal contaminants than humans, for example, we can tolerate silver in our drinking water at concentrations of up to 0.1 mg/L, but this concentration in a river can be lethal to fish.

Our job is to watch for and reduce the potential for stormwater pollution from CSU’s campuses.

What is CSU Doing to Prevent Stormwater Pollution?

CSU has a Stormwater Permit which describes what measures CSU must take to minimize stormwater pollution. The permit is called an MS4 or Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit and is issued by the State of Colorado. The MS4 permit encompasses a specific area, shown on the MS4 boundary maps, and CSU has developed a Program Description Document (PDD) that describes how CSU complies with the permit. The PDD is publicly available for review and comment by any person working, living or studying within the MS4 boundary.

CSU requires stormwater treatment using Green Infrastructure (GI) or Low Impact Development (LID) practices on all projects, new and redevelopment, that create or redevelop more than 1,000 square feet of new impervious area. Projects to which this applies include buildings, building additions, parking lots, and roads.

CSU’s requirements are codified in the CSU Facilities Planning, Design and Construction Standards, which are maintained online and issued with the contract for each project. In particular, the requirements for stormwater treatment are in “Part IV – Regulatory Requirements”. Part 33 40 00, C requires treatment of 100 percent of a project’s impervious area using LID. The requirement for stormwater treatment is not optional, rather it is mandated, and is substantiated by CSU’s Stormwater MS4 permit and an agreement in place with the City of Fort Collins.

CSU’s Facilities Management department has an active Stormwater Strategy Team that meets periodically to discuss new projects and advances in LID and GI concepts and maintenance.

As of 2023, CSU owns and maintains 77 discrete SCMs designed to treat stormwater, and more than 50 porous paving bicycle parking areas.

We attempt to control stormwater pollution by using a variety of techniques and strategies. The following are a few examples of actions we have taken to minimize stormwater pollution

  • Watching for and correcting “illicit” discharges (for example outdoor washing of equipment)
  • Affixing “NO DUMPING, DRAINS TO RIVER” stickers on storm drains
  • Annual training of Facilities personnel
  • Designing and constructing stormwater quality improvement structures, such as bioswales, buffer filter strips and berms
  • Routine cleaning of catch basins and storm drain pipes
  • Routine horse manure management
  • Monthly inspections  by a CSU stormwater inspector
  • Creating and posting posters
  • Rapid spill response
  • Annual meeting of a Stormwater Advisory Group
  • Collaboration with engineering professors and students on stormwater quality
  • Annual report to State regulators 
  • Compiling & following standard operating procedures  for stormwater pollution prevention

Contractor Information

Fire Suppression System Discharges: In December 2014 CDPHE issued a policy and guidance for these discharges that categorize them as low-risk, which means CDPHE will not require permit coverage or take enforcement action against operators without permit coverage as long as the operator is following the guidance. In a nutshell: you can discharge fire suppression system discharges, such as water from inspector tests, provided there are no added chemicals in the system, and the discharge does not cause erosion or impact receiving waters. Please read the policy and guidance documents before discharging liquids from fire suppression systems, they can be found here:

Groundwater Dewatering During Construction: If your construction project includes excavation below the groundwater table, and you might be pumping groundwater, you need to have a plan to manage that groundwater. Options include discharge to storm sewers (including gutters, pipes, rivers, etc.), discharge to sanitary sewer, or reinjection. If you wish to discharge to storm sewers, then you will need a permit from CDPHE that is designed to protect the receiving stream. Before you apply for the permit you must check for nearby contaminated sites, for example leaking underground storage tanks, hazardous waste sites, sites undergoing cleanup, etc., and if within a specified distance (for example within ½ mile of a voluntary cleanup site) you must collect a groundwater sample at your site and have it analyzed for certain parameters. Depending on the results, you might have to plan to treat your pumped groundwater before releasing it from your site. Be aware that even if chemicals you detect are naturally occurring (for example selenium), you will be required to meet a limit that might be lower than the concentration you found in the groundwater. CSU’s Main campus is underlain by a groundwater aquifer the top of which is about 15 to 20 feet below ground, so it is important to consider groundwater pumping before all construction projects. For more information visit the CDPHE web-site:

Regulatory Items of Interest

Discharges of process wastewater or contaminated water are not allowed to go to storm drains. In some cases, a specific discharge permit can be obtained to allow the discharge of process wastewater. However, these permits may require monitoring, reporting and treatment to meet the discharge limits. CSU’s stormwater and surface water discharges are regulated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

CDPHE regulates some discharges as ‘low risk’, meaning no permit is required, but best practices must be followed.  Examples include fire suppression system water, and potable water.

The slides below illustrate a few of CSU’s fire suppression system discharges and how we handle them.

The State considers the discharge of potable water to be a “low-risk” discharge. The State has acknowledged that although potable water contains a pollutant in the form of chlorine, this pollutant can be removed and dissipates quickly. Further, when the discharge of potable water can cause erosion and transport of sediment, if appropriate management techniques are used this erosion can be minimized. Here is a link to CDPHE’s guidance on potable water discharges:… Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the “Discharge of Potable Water Guidance”. Although chlorine in potable water can be treated or dissipated, this is not necessarily the case for superchlorinated water, potable water that is used to disinfect new water mains and fire lines. CSU typically requires contractors within CSU’s MS4 boundary to collect and dispose of superchlorinated water. All contractors must coordinate discharges of superchlorinated water with personnel in the CSU Facilities Management Utilities Group before superchlorinating.

What Can I Do to Prevent Stormwater Pollution?

Here are a few healthy household habits that you can do to help clean up the water bodies around Fort Collins:

  • Use a commercial carwash or wash your car on a lawn or other unpaved surface to minimize the amount of dirty, soapy water that enters the storm drain.
  • Purchase nontoxic, biodegradable, recycled, and recyclable products whenever possible.
  • Clean up PET WASTE and dispose of it properly (preferably in the toilet)!!
  • If your vehicle is leaking fluids, repair them as soon as possible. If you are repairing your vehicle, do it in an appropriate location and clean up any spills immediately.
  • Dispose of hazardous chemicals and automotive fluids appropriately. DO NOT dump them in the gutter, down any drains or dispose of them in the garbage.
  • Keep the sidewalks shoveled outside of your house to minimize the need to use de-icing agents.

Remember, any pollutant you place or see on the ground will eventually end up in our rivers, creeks, and lakes. Keep this in mind next time you go swimming, kayaking, or tubing down the Poudre River!! If you observe someone illegally discharging wastes around CSU please report the incident to CSU Facilities Dispatch at 970-491-0077.

Public Involvement

Do you have questions or comments about how CSU manages stormwater?  Feel free to use this form to communicate with us. We welcome your input!