Glossary

  

Alkalinity
Refers to how well a water body can neutralize acids. Alkalinity measures the amount of alkaline compounds in water, such as carbonates (CO 3 2- ), bicarbonates (HCO 3 - ), and hydroxides (OH - ). These compounds are natural buffers that can remove excess hydrogen ions that have been added from sources such as acid rain or acid mine drainage. Alkalinity mitigates or relieves metals toxicity by using available HCO 3 - and CO 3 2- to take metals out of solution, thus making it unavailable to fish. Alkalinity is affected by the geology of the watershed; watersheds containing limestone will have a higher alkalinity than watersheds where granite is predominant.
Aquifer
A geologic stratum containing groundwater that can be withdrawn and used for human purposes.
Backwater
Water upstream from an obstruction which is deeper than it would normally be without the obstruction.
Baffle
A device to deflect, check or regulate flow.
Basin
Any area draining to a point of interest. Basins of interest to King County staff are those that drain either to the Cedar, Green, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, or White rivers, or the drainage areas which drain directly to Puget Sound.
Basin plan
A plan and all implementing regulations and procedures including but not limited to capital projects, public education activities, land use management regulations adopted by ordinance for managing surface and storm water management facilities, and features within individual subbasins.
Berm
A constructed barrier of compacted earth.
Biofiltration swale or Bioswale
A long, gently sloped, vegetated ditch designed to filter pollutants from stormwater. Grass is the most common vegetation, but wetland vegetation can be used if the soil is saturated.
BMP
Best Management Practice.
Buffer
A designated area adjacent to and a part of a steep slope or landslide hazard area which protects slope stability, attenuation of surface water flows, and landslide hazards reasonably necessary to minimize risk; or a designated area adjacent to or a part of a stream or wetland that is an integral part of the stream or wetland ecosystem.
CSO
Combined Sewer Overflow
Constructed conveyance system facilities
Gutters, ditches, pipes, channels, and most flow control and water quality treatment facilities.
Conveyance System
Drainage facilities and features that collect, contain, and provide for the flow of surface and storm water from the highest points on the land down to a receiving water. Conveyance systems are made up of natural elements and of constructed facilities.
Critical Drainage Area
An area with such severe flooding, drainage, and/or erosion/sedimentation conditions which have resulted or will result from the cumulative impacts of development and urbanization, that the area has been formally adopted as a Critical Drainage Area by rule under the procedures specified in KCC 2.98.
Culvert
Pipe or concrete box structure which drains open channels, swales, or ditches under a roadway or embankment typically with no catch basins or manholes along its length.
Dead storage
The volume available in a depression in the ground below any conveyance system, or surface drainage pathway, or outlet invert elevation that could allow the discharge of surface and storm water runoff.
Debris Barrier
A metal trash rack
Depression storage
The amount of precipitation that is trapped in depressions on the surface of the ground.
Detention
Release of surface and storm water runoff from the site at a slower rate than it is collected by the drainage facility system, the difference being held in temporary storage.
Detention facility
A facility that collects water from developed areas and releases it at a slower rate than it enters the collection system. The excess of inflow over outflow is temporarily stored in a pond or a vault and is typically released over a few hours or a few days.
Direct discharge
Undetained discharge from a proposed project to a major receiving water.
Discharge
Runoff, excluding offsite flows, leaving the proposed development through overland flow, built conveyance systems, or infiltration facilities.
Dissolved Oxygen (DO) is the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water. DO is a very important indicator of a water body's ability to support aquatic life. Fish "breathe" by absorbing dissolved oxygen through their gills. Oxygen enters the water by absorption directly from the atmosphere or by aquatic plant and algae photosynthesis. Oxygen is removed from the water by respiration and decomposition of organic matter. The amount of DO in water depends on several factors, including temperature (the colder the water, the more oxygen can be dissolved); the volume and velocity of water flowing in the water body; and the amount of organisms using oxygen for respiration. The amount of oxygen dissolved in water is expressed as a concentration, in milligrams per liter (mg/l) of water. Human activities that affect DO levels include the removal of riparian vegetation, runoff from roads, and sewage discharge.
Dispersed discharge
Release of surface and storm water runoff from a drainage facility system such that the flow spreads over a wide area and is located so as not to allow flow to concentrate anywhere upstream of a drainage channel with erodible underlying granular soils or the potential to flood downstream properties.
Ditch
A constructed channel with its top width less than 10 feet at design flow.
Diversion
A change in the natural discharge location or runoff flows onto or away from an adjacent downstream property.
DoE
Department of Environment
Drainage
The collection, conveyance, containment, and/or discharge of surface and storm water runoff.
Drainage area or Drainage basin
An area draining to a point of interest.
Drainage facility
A constructed or engineered feature that collects, conveys, stores or treats surface and storm water runoff. Drainage facilities shall include but not be limited to all constructed or engineered streams, pipelines, channels, ditches, gutters, lakes, wetlands, closed depressions, flow control or water quality treatment facilities, erosion and sedimentation control facilities, and other drainage structures and appurtenances that provide for drainage.
Dry Season
May 1 to September 30.
Embankment
A structure of earth, gravel, or similar material raised to form a pond bank or foundation for a road.
EPA
Environmental Protection Agency
Energy Dissipater
A rock pad constructed at inlets/outlets to prevent erosion, or a constructed percolation trench to disperse outletting flows over a large area, or a catch basin used to slow fast flowing runoff. Catch basins may be a part of the dispersion trench.
Erosion
The detachment and transport of soil or rock fragments by water, wind, ice, etc.
ESC
Erosion and Sediment Control
Eutrophic
A condition of a water body in which excess nutrients, particularly phosphorous, stimulates the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen. Thus, less dissolved oxygen is available to other aquatic life.
Fecal Coliform Bacteria are present in the feces and intestinal tracts of humans and other warm-blooded animals, and can enter water bodies from human and animal waste. If a large number of fecal coliform bacteria (over 200 colonies/100 ml of water sample) are found in water, it is possible that pathogenic (disease- or illness-causing) organisms are also present in the water. Pathogens are typically present in such small amounts it is impractical monitor them directly. High concentrations of the bacteria in water may be caused by septic tank failure, poor pasture and animal keeping practices, pet waste, and urban runoff.

Flow is the volume of water moving past a point in a unit of time. Two things make up flow: the volume of water in the stream, and the velocity of the water moving past a given point. Flow affects the concentration of dissolved oxygen, natural substances, and pollutants in a water body. Flow is measured in units of cubic feet per second (cfs).
Flow control facility
A drainage facility designed to mitigate the impacts of increased surface and storm water runoff generated by site development pursuant to the drainage requirements in King County Code Chapter 9.04. Flow control facilities are designed either to hold water for a considerable length of time and then release it by evaporation, plant transpiration, and/or infiltration into the ground, or to hold runoff a short period of time and then release it to the conveyance system.
Flow control standards
Section 3.1.2 of the 1998 King County SWDM describes Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 flow control standards. The level of flow control required is based on the resource value of the receiving system in terms of its hydrology, ecology, geology and water quality. More....
Freeboard
The vertical distance between the design water surface elevation and the elevation of the structure or facility which contains the water.
FROP
Flow Restrictor/Oil Pollution control device.
Groundwater
Underground water usually found in aquifers. Groundwater usually originates from infiltration. Wells tap the groundwater for water supply uses.
Habitat
The specific area or environment in which a particular type of plant or animal lives and grows.
Hardness generally refers to the amount of calcium and magnesium in water. In household use, these cations (ions with a charge greater than +1) can prevent soap from sudsing and leave behind a white scum in bathtubs. In the aquatic environment, calcium and magnesium help keep fish from absorbing metals, such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, into their bloodstream through their gills. Therefore, the harder the water, the less easy it is for toxic metals to absorb onto gills.

Hardpan
A cemented or compacted and often clay-like layer of soil that is impenetrable by roots.
Harmful pollutant
A substance that has adverse effects to an organism including death, chronic poisoning, impaired reproduction, cancer, or other effects.
HRT
Hydraulic residence time
Hydrologic cycle
The circuit of water movement from the atmosphere to the earth and return to the atmosphere through various stages or processes such as precipitation, interception, runoff, infiltration, percolation, storage, evaporation, and transpiration.
Illicit discharges
Discharges of non-stormwater to the storm drainage system. Examples are discharges from internal floor drains, appliances, industrial processes, sinks, and toilets that are connected to the nearby storm drainage system. These discharges should be going to the sanitary sewer system, a holding tank, an on-site process water treatment system, or a septic system.
Impervious surface
A hard surface area which either prevents or retards the entry of water into the soil mantle as under natural conditions prior to development; and/or a hard surface area which causes water to run off the surface in greater quantities or at an increased rate of flow from the flow present under natural conditions prior to development.

Common impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, roof tops, walkways, patios, driveways, parking lots or storage areas, concrete or asphalt paving, gravel roads, packed earthen materials, and oiled, macadam, or other surfaces which similarly impede the natural infiltration of surface and storm water runoff. Open, uncovered flow control or water quality treatment facilities shall not be considered impervious surfaces for determinations of thresholds. For the purpose of modeling though, onsite flow control and water quality ponds are modeled as impervious surface per Chapter 3 of the King County Surface Water Design Manual.
Impoundment
A natural or man-made containment for surface water.
Infiltration/Inflow (I/I)
Clean storm and/or groundwater that enters the sewer system through cracked pipes, leaky manholes, or improperly connected storm drains, down spouts and sump pumps. Most inflow comes from stormwater and most infiltration comes from groundwater. I/I affects the size of conveyance and treatment systems and, ultimately, the rate businesses and residents pay to operate and maintain them.
Infiltration facility
A drainage facility designed to use the hydrologic process of water soaking into the ground (commonly referred to as percolation) to dispose of surface and storm water runoff.
Lake
An area permanently inundated by water in excess of two meters (7 ft) deep and greater than twenty acres in size as measured at the ordinary high water mark.
Natural conveyance system elements
Swales and small drainage courses, streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

Nitrogen is required by all organisms for the basic processes of life to make proteins, to grow, and to reproduce. Nitrogen is very common and found in many forms in the environment. Inorganic forms include nitrate (NO 3 ) , nitrite (NO 2 ) , ammonia (NH 3 ) , and nitrogen gas (N 2 ) . Organic nitrogen is found in the cells of all living things and is a component of proteins, peptides, and amino acids. Excessive concentrations of nitrate, nitrite, or ammonia can be harmful to humans and wildlife. High levels of nitrate, along with phosphate, can overstimulate the growth of aquatic plants and algae, resulting in high dissolved oxygen consumption, causing death of fish and other aquatic organisms. This process is called eutrophication. Nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia enter waterways from lawn fertilizer run-off, leaking septic tanks, animal wastes, industrial waste waters, sanitary landfills and discharges from car exhausts.

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution
NPS pollution occurs when rainfall, snowmelt, or irrigation runs over land or through the ground, picks up pollutants, and deposits them into rivers, lakes, and coastal waters or introduces them into ground water. (See USEPA Factsheet)
Nonstructural BMP
A preventative action to protect receiving water quality that does not require construction. Nonstructural BMPs rely predominantly on behavioral changes in order to be effective. Major categories of non-structural BMPs include education, recycling, maintenance practices and source controls.
Natural onsite drainage feature
A natural swale, channel, stream, closed depression, wetland, or lake.
Oil/water separator
A vault, usually underground designed to provide a quiescent environment to separate oil from water. Floatables (e.g., styrofoam) are also removed.
Outfall
A point where collected and concentrated surface and storm water runoff is discharged from a pipe system or culvert.
pH measures hydrogen concentration in water and is presented on a scale from 0 to 14. A solution with a pH value of 7 is neutral; a solution with a pH value less than 7 is acidic; a solution with a pH value greater than 7 is basic. Natural waters usually have a pH between 6 and 9. The scale is negatively logarithmic, so each whole number (reading downward) is ten times the preceding one (for example, pH 5.5 is 100 times as acidic as pH 7.5). The pH of natural waters can be made acidic or basic by human activities such as acid mine drainage and emissions from coal-burning power plants and heavy automobile traffic.

Phosphorus is a nutrient required by all organisms for the basic processes of life. Phosphorus is a natural element found in rocks, soils and organic material. Its concentrations in clean waters is generally very low; however, phosphorus is used extensively in fertilizer and other chemicals, so it can be found in higher concentrations in areas of human activity. Phosphorus is generally found as phosphate (PO 4 -3 ). High levels of phosphate, along with nitrate, can overstimulate the growth of aquatic plants and algae, resulting in high dissolved oxygen consumption, causing death of fish and other aquatic organisms. The primary sources of phosphates to surface water are detergents, fertilizers, and natural mineral deposits.

Point discharge
The release of collected and/or concentrated surface and storm water runoff from a pipe, culvert, or channel.
Point source pollutant
Storm water discharges are generated by runoff from land and impervious areas such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops during rainfall and snow events that often contain pollutants in quantities that could adversely affect water quality. Most storm water discharges are considered point sources and require coverage by an NPDES permit. The primary method to control storm water discharges is through the use of best management practices.
Pollution-generating impervious surface
An impervious surface considered to be a significant source of pollutants in surface and storm water runoff.. Such surfaces include those subject to vehicular use or storage of erodible or leachable materials, wastes, or chemicals, and which receive direct rainfall or the run-on or blow-in of rainfall. Thus, a covered parking area would be included if runoff from uphill could regularly run through it or if rainfall could regularly blow in and wet the pavement surface. Metal roofs are also considered pollution-generating impervious surface unless they are treated to prevent leaching.
Pollution-generating pervious surface
A non-impervious surface with vegetative ground cover subject to use of pesticides and fertilizers. Such surfaces include, but are not limited to, the lawn and landscaped areas of residential or commercial sites, golf courses, parks, and sports fields.
Reach
A length of channel with uniform characteristics.
Receiving waters
Bodies of water or surface water systems receiving water from upstream man-made or natural systems.
Recharge
The flow to groundwater from the infiltration of surface and stormwater runoff.
Resource stream
A stream section mapped and rated by King County as being a regionally significant stream reach that harbors significant concentrations of fish for some period in their life cycle.
Retention
The process of collecting and holding surface and storm water runoff with no surface outflow.
R/D Facility
Retention and detention facility. A type of drainage facility designed either to hold water for a considerable length of time and then release it by evaporation, plant transpiration, and/or infiltration into the ground, or to hold surface and storm water runoff for a short period of time and then release it to the surface and storm water conveyance system. Also called flow control facilities. More....
Riparian
Pertaining to the banks of rivers and streams, and sometimes also wetlands, lakes, or tidewater.
Riprap
A facing layer or protective mound of stones placed to prevent erosion or sloughing of a structure or embankment due to the flow of surface and storm water runoff.
Runoff
Water originating from rainfall and other precipitation that ultimately flows into drainage facilities, rivers, streams, springs, seeps, ponds, lakes, and wetlands as well as shallow groundwater.
Septic system
An onsite wastewater collection system
Sewer system
The system of pipes and pump stations that collect and transport wastewater from homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant.

Specific Conductance is a measure of how well water can pass an electrical current. It is an indirect measure of the presence of inorganic dissolved solids, such as chloride, nitrate, sulfate, phosphate, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. These substances conduct electricity because they are negatively or positively charged when dissolved in water. The concentration of dissolved solids, or the conductivity, is affected by the bedrock and soil in the watershed. It is also affected by human influences. For example, agricultural runoff can raise conductivity because of the presence of phosphate and nitrate.

Stormwater
Stormwater is the water that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots. It can also come from hard grassy surfaces like lawns, play fields, and from graveled roads and parking lots.
Stormwater Facility
Facilities that control the discharge of stormwater and that remove pollutants make up the bulk of the structural solutions applied to surface water problems in King County. Stormwater facilities included storage facilities (ponds, vaults, underground tanks, and infiltration systems); water quality facilities (wetponds, biofiltration swales, constructed wetlands, sand filters, and oil/water separators); and conveyance systems (ditches, pipes, and catchbasins).
These systems are most often built in conjunction with new development, but include regional facilities designed and constructed by the Department of Natural Resources.
Once constructed, stormwater facilities require on-going maintenance to ensure they continue to perform as intended. Maintenance of storage facilities typically includes the removal of accumulated sediment and debris, routine mowing, and minor repairs to mechanical appurtenances. Management of water quality facilities is more complex, requiring intensive vegetation management, inspection and maintenance of flow control features, and restoration or replacement of filter media. King County plays an active role in the management of three categories of stormwater facilities: residential, commercial, and regional. These three terms are defined in the following paragraphs.
Stormwater Management
The application of site design principles and construction techniques to prevent sediments and other pollutants from entering surface or ground water; source controls; and treatment of runoff to reduce pollution.
SMP (or SWMP)
Stormwater Management Program
Storm drain system
The system of gutters, pipes, streams, or ditches used to carry surface and storm water from surrounding lands to streams, lakes, or Puget Sound.
Structural BMP
Constructed facilities or measures to help protect receiving water quality and control stormwater quantity. Examples include storage, vegetation, infiltration, and filtration.
Swale
A shallow drainage conveyance with relatively gentle side slopes, generally with flow depths less than one foot.
Temperature of water is a very important factor for aquatic life. It controls the rate of metabolic and reproductive activities. Most aquatic organisms are "cold-blooded," which means they can not control their own body temperatures. Their body temperatures become the temperature of the water around them. Cold-blooded organisms are adapted to a specific temperature range. If water temperatures vary too much, metabolic activities can malfunction. Temperature also affects the concentration of dissolved oxygen and can influence the activity of bacteria in a water body.

Tightline
Typically a continuous length of pipe used to convey flows down a steep or sensitive slope with appropriate energy dissipation at the discharge end.
TMDL
A TMDL or Total Maximum Daily Load is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. Water quality standards identify the uses for each waterbody, for example, drinking water supply, contact recreation (swimming), and aquatic life support (fishing), and the scientific criteria to support that use. The Clean Water Act, section 303, establishes the water quality standards and TMDL programs.
Total Organic Carbon (TOC): Organic matter plays a major role in aquatic systems. It affects biogeochemical processes, nutrient cycling, biological availability,chemical transport and interactions. It also has direct implications in the planning of wastewater treatment and drinking water treatment. Organic matter content is typically measured as total organic carbon and dissolved organic carbon, which are essential components of the carbon cycle.

"Total solids" refers to matter suspended or dissolved in water or wastewater, and is related to both specific conductance and turbidity. Total Solids includes both total suspended solids (TSS) , the portion of total solids retained by a filter, and total dissolved solids (TDS) , the portion that passes through a filter. High levels of TDS or TSS can cause health problems for aquatic life.

Toxic
Poisonous, carcinogenic, or otherwise directly harmful to life.
Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness of water- the cloudier the water, the greater the turbidity. Turbidity in water is caused by suspended matter such as clay, silt, and organic matter and by plankton and other microscopic organisms that interfere with the passage of light through the water. Turbidity is closely related to total suspended solids (TSS), but also includes plankton and other organisms. Turbidity itself is not a major health concern, but high turbidity can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. It also may indicate the presence of microbes. High turbidity can be caused by soil erosion, urban runoff, and high flow rates.

Water quality treatment facility
A drainage facility designed to reduce pollutants once they are already contained in surface and storm water runoff. Water quality treatment facilities are the structural component of best management practices (BMPs); when used singly or in combination, WQ facilities reduce the potential for contamination of surface and/or ground waters.

Wet Season
October 1 to April 30.
Wetland
An area inundated or saturated by ground or surface water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulation 33 CFR 328.3 (1988)).

Wetlands in King County include all area waterward from the wetland edge. Where the vegetation has been removed, a wetland shall be determined by the presence of hydric soils, as well as other documentation of the previous existence of wetland vegetation such as aerial photographs.
Wetpond
Drainage facilities for water quality treatment that contain a permanent pool of water. They are designed to optimize water quality by providing long retention times (on the order of a week or more) to settle out particles of fine sediment to which pollutants such as heavy metals adsorb, and to allow biologic activity to occur that metabolizes nutrients and organic pollutants. For wetvaults, the permanent pool of water is covered by a lid which blocks sunlight from entering the facility, limiting light-dependent biologic activity.
Wetvault
Drainage facilities for water quality treatment that contain a permanent pool of water. They are designed to optimize water quality by providing long retention times (on the order of a week or more) to settle out particles of fine sediment to which pollutants such as heavy metals adsorb, and to allow biologic activity to occur that metabolizes nutrients and organic pollutants. For wetvaults, the permanent pool of water is covered by a lid which blocks sunlight from entering the facility, limiting light-dependent biologic activity.