Stormwater Education & Resources

The storm water drainage system is a complicated network of pipes, ditches and streams.
The storm water drainage system is a complicated network of pipes, ditches and streams.
The Town of Harrisburg is a member of the Regional Storm Water Partnership (RSWP). The UNCC Ideas Center is the administrator for the Partnership.

View document: Small-Scale Solutions to Eroding Streambanks

Source: NC Cooperative Extension Backyard Stream Repair Program

Where does the rain go?
All residents and property owners in the Town of Harrisburg can play a part in stormwater management by learning about our local water resources, how we affect water quality and flooding potential and what we can do to minimize pollution and damage.

What’s the difference between wastewater and stormwater?
Wastewater is water that was used and flows from sinks, toilets, washing machines, etc. Stormwater is rain.

Where does it go?
When you wash your clothes or take a bath the water that goes down the drain flows through a complicated system of pipes to the wastewater treatment plant. This is called the sanitary sewer system. The same is not true for the storm drains. In Harrisburg, all storm drains flow directly to our creeks and lakes through the stormwater drainage system.

What is the stormwater drainage system?
The stormwater drainage system consists of pipes, roadside ditches, backyard streams, under-road culverts, storm drains and large flowing creeks. Stormwater enters the system through grates along roadsides and in yards or by running off directly to creeks, ponds or lakes. As it flows through the drainage system, stormwater can pick up anything in its path including: oil, dirt litter, leaves, etc. Unfortunately, all this stormwater pollution ends up in our creeks and lakes.

The stormwater drainage system and sanitary sewer system usually work well to carry away the different types of water. The problem comes when pollution ends up in the stormwater drainage system and not in the sanitary sewer system.

What’s the difference?
Sanitary Sewer System

  • Water here is treated at a wastewater treatment plant. 
  • The water in this system comes from sinks, toilets, showers, washing machines, etc.
  • This system is made up of a complicated system of pipes that all lead to a wastewater treatment plant. Water is treated through a complicated process before being released back into the creeks.

Stormwater Drainage System

  • Water in this system drains directly to creeks and lakes and is never treated.
  • Water here should only come from the clouds as rain.
  • This system is made up of man-made storm drains, pipes and ditches and natural streams and creeks.


There is a difference between the Sanitary Sewer System, the Water Supply System and the Stormwater Drainage System.

All storm drains flow directly to our creeks.

Stormwater can be polluted with oil, dirt, trash, etc.

It is illegal to dump anything down storm drains in Harrisburg.

Underground pipes and open-air streams make up the majority of the storm water drainage system.
Underground pipes and open-air streams make up the majority of the storm water drainage system.
Why is there a drainage system?
Most of our stormwater drainage system in made up of natural creeks and streams. People have added man-made drainage to help convey storm water when it rains. Its primary function is to reduce flooding, but also to direct streams under roads.

Can you connect the stormwater drainage system to the sanitary sewer system so that stormwater pollution is

Some municipalities have connected systems. It would be very expensive to connect the systems in our highly urbanized community and build many more treatment plants. During big storms, treatment plants would not be able to handle floodwaters.

To Learn More:
In Harrisburg, the sanitary sewer and the drinking water supply are managed by the Public Works Department. For more information regarding the storm drain system including blockages, flooding and service requests, call 704-455-5614.