BMP T5.13: Post-Construction Soil Quality and Depth

Purpose and Definition

Naturally occurring (undisturbed) soil and vegetation provide important stormwater functions including: water infiltration; nutrient, sediment, and pollutant adsorption; sediment and pollutant biofiltration; water interflow storage and transmission; and pollutant decomposition. These functions are largely lost when development strips away native soil and vegetation and replaces it with minimal topsoil and sod. Not only are these important stormwater functions lost, but such landscapes themselves become pollution generating pervious surfaces due to increased use of pesticides, fertilizers and other landscaping and household/industrial chemicals, the concentration of pet wastes, and pollutants that accompany roadside litter.

Establishing soil quality and depth regains greater stormwater functions in the post development landscape, provides increased treatment of pollutants and sediments that result from development and habitation, and minimizes the need for some landscaping chemicals, thus reducing pollution through prevention.

Applications and Limitations

Establishing a minimum soil quality and depth is not the same as preservation of naturally occurring soil and vegetation. However, establishing a minimum soil quality and depth will provide improved on-site management of stormwater flow and water quality.

Soil organic matter can be attained through numerous materials such as compost, composted woody material, biosolids, and forest product residuals. It is important that the materials used to meet the soil quality and depth BMP be appropriate and beneficial to the plant cover to be established. Likewise, it is important that imported topsoils improve soil conditions and do not have an excessive percent of clay fines.

This BMP can be considered infeasible on till soil slopes greater than 33 percent.

Design Guidelines

The resulting soil should be conducive to the type of vegetation to be established.

Planning/Permitting/Inspection/Verification Guidelines & Procedures

Local governments are encouraged to adopt guidelines and procedures similar to those recommended in Guidelines and Resources For Implementing Soil Quality and Depth BMP T5.13 in WDOE Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington. This document is available at:


Runoff Model Representation

Areas meeting the design guidelines may be entered into approved runoff models as “Pasture” rather than “Lawn.”

Flow reduction credits can be taken in runoff modeling when BMP T5.13: Post-Construction Soil Quality and Depth is used as part of a dispersion design under the conditions described in:

Figure V-5.3.3 Planting bed Cross-Section

2014 Figure V-5.3.3 pdf download