Cold climate imposes special requirements on urban drainage systems, arising from extended storage of precipitation and pollutants in the catchment snowpack, processes occurring in the snowpack, and changes in catchment surface and transport network by snow and ice. Consequently, the resulting catchment response and runoff quantity differ from those experienced in snow- and ice-free seasons. Sources of pollutants entering urban snowpacks include airborne fallout, pavement and roadside deposits, and applications of de-icing and anti-skid agents. In the snowpack, snow, water and chemicals are subject to various processes, which affect their movement through the pack and eventual release during the melting process. Soluble constituents are flushed from the snowpack early during the melt; hydrophobic substances generally stay in the pack until the very end of melt and coarse solids with adsorbed pollutants stay on the ground after the melt is finished. The impacts of snowmelt on receiving waters have been measured mostly by the snowmelt chemical composition and inferences about its environmental significance. Recently, snowmelt has been tested by standard bioassays and often found toxic. Toxicity was attributed mostly to chloride and trace metals, and contributed to reduced diversity of benthic and plant communities. Thus, snowmelt and winter runoff discharged from urban drainage threaten aquatic ecosystems in many locations and require further studies with respect to advancing their understanding and development of best management practices.

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