Low Impact Development (LID)

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do to you.”

– Wendell Berry



Low impact development (LID) is a land use planning and design approach that helps limit environmental degradation from growth and development. Integrating stormwater practices into site design and implementing on-site features to reduce stormwater runoff and increase ground water recharge, LID ensures that development happens with an eye toward protecting water quality and environmental integrity. North Carolina State University initiated the NC LID Group, a clearinghouse of information on the principles of low impact development to improve understanding, and ultimately implementation, of LID projects. Low impact development encompasses the concepts and tools that could be key to cleaning up Falls Lake and Jordan Lake, Wake County’s drinking water reservoirs. The Low Impact Development Guidebook for North Carolina is a great resource for LID.


Rain gardens are one LID practice that individual citizens can implement to improve water quality and quantity. A rain garden is planted in a depression to allow rainwater that runs off of impervious surfaces like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas the opportunity to be absorbed. This increases infiltration of rainwater, enhancing groundwater resources, and reduces the volume of stormwater, decreasing water pollution and erosion. To learn more about rain gardens, go to Wikipedia or this Wake County resident’s rain garden blog. Remember though that while personal actions to help solve the our water problems are very important, you can have an even greater impact by advocating for policy changes that require Wake County and its municipalities to improve stormwater management.


Municipalities and counties should revise their ordinances to make better stormwater practices mandatory. Many opportunities exist to keep rainwater on site, and should be implemented in new and existing development. These include: low-impact development, rainwater capture and reuse through cisterns and other stormwater storage devices, rain gardens, permeable pavers to cut down on impervious surfaces, and green infrastructure that uses soil and vegetation to manage and treat rainwater naturally.