Stormwater Management in Tropical Countries: Specific Problems and Adapted Solutions

Nico Kersting, Gilles Rivard, and Elizabeth Inglefield


The basic goal of stormwater management design in urbanized areas is to collect, transport and store stormwater in order to prevent flooding. In general, this approach to stormwater management in tropical developing countries is very similar to the approach followed in the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world. However, the specific problems encountered in reaching this goal are significantly different in some aspects for tropical developing countries. These differences necessitate adaptations to the design approach in order to ensure effective and practical solutions.

The problems encountered in tropical developing countries, such as Trinidad & Tobago, span a wide range of themes, but can generally be categorized into four types: institutional, technical, practical, and environmental. The institutional problems include problems associated with the organizations responsible or involved in stormwater management, and include e.g. the following: inadequate urban planning measures, unclear responsibilities of governmental organizations, lack of funding, inadequate laws/regulations and poor enforcement of laws/regulations. Technical problems include problems such as unclear design standards, poor quality of data gathering and analyses, limited construction capabilities, monitoring and maintenance issues. From a modeling point of view, taking into account dual drainage systems (conduits in combination with street flows and interception points), becomes an important design consideration element. Practical and environmental problems can be combined to encompass all of the problems associated with the application of a design/stormwater management measure in a particular scenario. These may include: squatting (uncontrolled urbanization), sedimentation of drainage conduits, encroachment on river and drainage reserves, and pollution and absence of debris control.

The specific institutional, technical, practical, and environmental problems in stormwater management in tropical countries therefore require adapted practical solutions taking into account the climate and the cultural aspects. An in depth look at the specific typical practical problems in Trinidad & Tobago will be presented in order to explain how and why adapted solutions for stormwater management design are necessary compared to developed countries. Case studies, with analyses with PCSWMM, will be presented in order to examine and illustrate the appropriateness of the applied and proposed solutions.

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