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Storm Drain Inlet Protection

Minimum Measure: Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control

Subcategory: Sediment Control

Photo Description: There are many different ways to prevent sediment from entering storm drains.
There are many different ways to prevent sediment from entering storm drains.


Storm drain inlet protection measures prevent soil and debris from entering storm drain drop inlets. These measures are usually temporary and are implemented before a site is disturbed.

There are several types of inlet protection:

Excavation around the perimeter of the drop inlet: Excavating a small area around an inlet creates a settling pool that removes sediments as water is released slowly into the inlet through small holes protected by gravel and filter fabric.

Fabric barriers around inlet entrances: Erecting a barrier made of porous fabric around an inlet creates a shield against sediment while allowing water to flow into the drain. This barrier slows runoff while catching soil and other debris at the drain inlet.

Block and gravel protection: Standard concrete blocks and gravel can be used to form a barrier to sediments that permits water runoff to flow through select blocks laid sideways.

Sandbags can also be used to create temporary sediment barriers at inlets. For permanent inlet protection after the surrounding area has been stabilized, sod can be installed. This permanent measure is an aesthetically pleasing way to slow stormwater near drop inlet entrances and to remove sediments and other pollutants from runoff.


All temporary inlet protection should have a drainage area no greater than 1 acre per inlet. Temporary controls should be constructed before the surrounding landscape is disturbed. Excavated drop inlet protection and block and gravel inlet protection are applicable to areas of high flow, where drain overflow is expected. Fabric barriers are recommended for smaller, flatter drainage areas (slopes less than 5 percent leading to the drain). Temporary drop inlet control measures are often used in sequence or with other erosion control techniques.

Siting and Design Considerations

With the exception of sod drop inlet protection, install these controls before any soil disturbance in the drainage area. Excavate around drop inlets at least 1 foot deep (2 feet maximum), excavating a volume of at least 35 yd3 per acre disturbed. Side slopes leading to the inlet should be no steeper than 2:1. Design the shape of the excavated area such that the dimensions fit the area from which stormwater is expected to drain. For example, the longest side of an excavated area should be along the side of the inlet expected to drain the largest area.

Stake fabric inlet protection close to the inlet to prevent overflow onto unprotected soils. Stakes should be at least 3 feet long and spaced no more than 3 feet apart. Construct a frame for fabric support during overflow periods, and bury it at least 1 foot below the soil surface. It should rise to a height no greater than 1.5 feet above the ground. The top of the frame and fabric should be below the downslope ground elevation to keep runoff from bypassing the inlet.

Block and gravel inlet barriers should be at least 1 foot high (2 feet maximum). Do not use mortar. Lay the bottom row of blocks at least 2 inches below the soil surface, flush against the drain for stability. Place one block in the bottom row on each side of the inlet on its side to allow drainage. Place 1/2-inch wire mesh over all block openings to prevent gravel from entering the inlet. Place gravel (3/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter) outside the block structure at a slope no greater than 2:1.

Do not consider sod inlet protection until the entire surrounding drainage area is stabilized. Lay the sod so that it extends at least 4 feet from the inlet in each direction to form a continuous mat around the inlet. Lay the sod strips perpendicular to the direction of flows. Stagger them so that the strip ends are not aligned. The slope of the sodded area should not be steeper than 4:1 approaching the drop inlet.


To increase the effectiveness of these practices, use them with other measures, such as small impoundments or sediment traps (USEPA, 1992). In general, stormwater inlet protection measures are practical for areas receiving relatively clean runoff that is not heavily laden with sediment. They are designed to handle drainage from areas less than 1 acre (CASQA, 2003). To prevent clogging, storm drain control structures must be maintained frequently. If sediment and other debris clog the water intake, drop inlet control measures can actually cause erosion in unprotected areas.

Maintenance Considerations

Check all temporary control measures after each storm event. To maintain the capacity of the settling pools, remove accumulated sediment from the area around the drop inlet (excavated area, area around fabric barrier or block structure) when the capacity is reduced by half. Remove additional debris from the shallow pools periodically. The weep holes in excavated areas around inlets can become clogged, preventing water from draining out of the pools. If that happens, it might be difficult and costly to unclog the intake.


Excavated drop inlet protection can be used to improve the effectiveness and reliability of other sediment traps and barriers, such as fabric or block and gravel inlet protection. The effectiveness of inlet protection alone is low for erosion and sediment control, long-term pollutant removal, and habitat and stream protection.

Cost Considerations

The cost of implementing storm drain inlet protection measures varies depending on the control measure used. Initial installation costs range from $50 to $150 per inlet depending on the materials used, with an average cost of $100 (USEPA, 1993). Maintenance costs can be high (up to 100 percent of the initial construction cost annually) because of the frequent inspection and repair needs. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has estimated the cost of installing inlet protection devices at $106 to $154 per inlet (SEWRPC, 1991).


California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA). 2003. Stormwater Best Management Practice Handbook: Construction. [ Exit EPA Site]. Accessed May 8, 2006.

SEWRPC (Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission). 1991. Costs of Urban Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Control Measures. Technical report no. 31. Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Waukesha, WI.

Smolen, M.D., D.W. Miller, L.C. Wyatt, J. Lichthardt, and A.L. Lanier. 1988. Erosion and Sediment Control Planning and Design Manual. North Carolina Sedimentation Control Commission; North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources; and Division of Land Resources, Land Quality Section, Raleigh, NC.

USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1992. Stormwater Management for Industrial Activities: Developing Pollution Prevention Plans and Best Management Practices. EPA 832-R-92-006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.

USEPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1993. Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters. EPA 840-B-92-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.


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Last updated on July 11, 2012