Site Design Toolkit

This “toolkit” includes information associated with a new, comprehensive land planning and engineering design approach that aims to minimize stormwater impacts associated with water quality, hydrology (volume of water and peak flows), water supply, flooding and physical effects.  A primary goal is to maintain and enhance the pre-development hydrologic regime of urban and developing watersheds. This approach relates to a number management schemes and includes Low Impact Development (LID), Conservation Design, Better Site Design, Smart Growth, and probably some others.

Lake Superior Streams is collaborating with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Pollution Prevention staff and others to include information from these approaches that will be useful to homeowners, contractors, developers, contractors, realtors and governmental agencies and decision-makers with the goal of reducing stormwater flows and pollutant loads in order to protect or restore our regional water resources. Although these techniques are most effective in terms of pollution and cost if implemented at the site planning and design stage, they are also effective at any stage of the construction or home improvement process repair.

There is also a State of Minnesota Stormwater Manual (2014) that provides a wealth of valuable information. Particular attention should be paid to Section 2 (BMP details) and the new MIDS calculator. Wisconsin also has a comprehensive stormwater program that is described within the WI DNR website.


*NEW MPCA's Minimal Impact Design Standards (MIDS) Community Assisance Package (5.4 MB pdf)

*NEW Low Impact Development (LID) Atlas

*Enter your project into the Northland NEMO LID Atlas

*Try out this rainfall calculator

*Field Guide for Maintaining Rural Roadside Ditches [3.1 MB pdf]

3 main steps for protecting local water resources from stormwater impacts:

Planning and Policy (read the policies you have and revisit them if necessary): Effective planning, starting with a natural resources inventory and assessment, must lead to changes in local ordinances to match the community’s goals.

Make sure your plan fits within local development codes and ordinances. This includes zoning and subdivision rules and ordinances, runoff, erosion and sediment control regulations, building and fire codes, street standards, public safety and access guidelines or regulations, and other wastewater, stormwater and environmental policies in effect. If unknown, a first step would be to visit the Lake Superior Communities section and the Regional Stormwater Protection Team sections of this website for relevant contact information or specific resources.


Evaluate your site: Making sure what is on the ground or falls on the ground stays there, or at least goes where it will cause the least problem.

What stormwater issues exist on your site? Are there wetlands or other areas of natural vegetation whose presence is an advantage in terms of minimizing stormwater runoff and pollutant loads from the site? A good strategy is to conserve more pervious natural areas and drainage pathways and avoid disturbing soils and native vegetation, especially on steep slopes. Stream and shoreline buffer zones can be effective in preventing runoff impacts and also in enhancing fish and wildlife. Consideration should also be given to re-planting previously disturbed areas as a trade-off for unavoidable construction areas. The (2014) Minnesota Stormwater Manual and other documents and websites in the Resources section provide lots of up-to-date information to help homeowners, developers and contractors choose designs that provide both short- and long-term savings in cost and maintenance. The Wisconsin Stormwater Website also includes a wide variety of technical manuals and presentations related to site evaluation. Visit Site Evaluation and Design for additional detailed information.


Learn about the variety of available tools for managing stormwater - stormwater – Best Management Practices (BMPs): Use the best available options for dealing with the runoff that is produced. If Planning, Policies and Site Evaluation are done well, then the need for stormwater BMP's can be greatly reduced. Just like recycling is the last part of the reduce-reuse-recycle concept, BMP's should be the last resort to dealing with stormwater. Controlling problems at their source is almost always much less expensive over the long-term.

There are many innovative technologies to reduce stormwater problems. These pages will inform you about where to use the technologies, pros and cons. They will also direct you to local examples and case studies, more information about installation, and local experts. We encourage our audience to share their experiences and expect this section to be dynamic as documented results accumulate for our region of the state. Because the western Lake Superior region is noted for thin, relatively impervious ("tight") soils, steep slopes and long, cold winters, some technologies that are successful in other parts of the state may need to be modified for the Northwoods - or even discounted. Visit Tools for Stormwater Management, our Case Study Index, and the 2006 Case Study Tour.