Stormwater Management Timeline

The City was founded in 1859 and has expanded, improved, and renewed every year up until current day. Throughout a vast majority of that time, there were no stormwater ordinances to guide and regulate that development to ensure proper stormwater runoff control. This resulted in development occurring in areas where stormwater has no choice but to collect. These areas are currently known as Floodplains and Flood Prone Areas. To better understand how the City got to where it is today follow the timeline below! Note: All images are clickable and each section of the timeline can be collapsed or expanded by clicking on the title line of that section.

  • Founded 1859
    The City of Wheaton was founded in 1859. At that time, the area that would become the City was a headwater land mass with numerous swampy depressional areas and no defined creeks or watercourses.
    Wheaton founded in 1859
  • Farm Drainage Act 1879
    In 1879 the Farm Drainage Act was passed by the State of Illinois which established the authority to create drainage districts “to create drainage for sanitary and agricultural purposes…”. This allowed for the eventual creation of the Union Drainage District #1 and #2 which were taxing bodies used to generate funds for drainage in their areas of operation in separate areas of Wheaton.
    1879 Farm Drainage Act
  • Creation of Drainage Channels 1890
    Between 1890 and 1900 Union Drainage Ditch #1 and Union Drainage Ditch #2 were constructed by men and mules through the City to provide many areas the means to drain in order to create additional farmable land. These Drainage Ditches are now known as Springbook#1 and Winfield Creek and are the major drainage routes in the City of Wheaton.
  • Draining of the Land
    Once the Union Drainage Ditches were constructed it allowed for farmers to install drain tiles (perforated pipes) on their property from any swampy upland depressions to the drainage ditches which also created additional farmable land. However, it also created the false sense of security that these depressions were dry lands. Since all pipes are easily overwhelmed by intense rainfalls this sense of security was proven false with many rainstorms. However, while crops stood in water from time to time little to no damages occurred.
  • Developing Outward 1939
    The City continued to develop and expand outwards. As areas developed infrastructure was installed by developers which for this time period frequently included storm sewers but they were not required by code. At this point the City had spread closer to the Union Drainage Ditches and Flood Prone Areas, but mainly remained away from most areas where flooding develops.
    An aerial view of Wheaton from 1939
  • Developing Outward 1956
    The City continued to develop and expand outwards. The City’s subdivision requirements have barely evolved and stormwater requirements still are not present besides providing small convenience drainage storm sewers or roadside ditches. At this point the City has grown to encompass all of the flood prone areas in the northern half of the City and has developed right up to many locations on Winfield Creek. This development resulted in placing private residences in locations where flooding is guaranteed to occur.
    An aerial view of Wheaton from 1956
  • City of Wheaton Subdivision Code 1957
    • The City of Wheaton Subdivision Code was updated and first showed signs of the idea of Stormwater Control. Stormwater runoff control was an idea that was starting to be used but only for extremely large subdivisions and there was no specific requirements on what had to be provided.
      • “Land subject to flooding and land deemed to be topographically unsuitable should not be subdivided for residential purposes, nor for such other uses as may increase danger to health, life or property, or aggravate erosion or flood hazard.”
    • Also in that update storm sewers became required public infrastructure for subdivisions.
      • “Adequate system of storm water drainage, separate form the sanitary sewer system, shall be constructed and installed, consisting of pipes, tile, manholes, inlets, and other necessary facilities, that will adequately drain the subdivision and protect roadway pavement.”
  • Technical Paper No. 40 1961
    The U.S. Department of Commerce publishes Technical Paper No. 40 (TP40) Titled "Rainfall Frequency Atlas of the United States" which is a study that proves that a 100-year storm rainfall is 5.8 inches in 24 hours. While in the future this was found to be an incorrect quantity, it did provide communities a benchmark to start thinking about how to control stormwater runoff.
  • Flood Insurance Act 1968
    The National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 is a piece of legislation passed in the United States that led to the creation of the National Flood Insurance Program. This program was originally housed in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Insurance Administration.
  • Preliminary Floodplain Maps 1974
    The creeks and channels and depressional areas have flooded numerous times by now. However, the City of Wheaton receives its first PRELIMINARY floodplain maps from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Insurance Administration as they attempt to delineate where additional floodplain regulations should be located.
  • First Stormwater Ordinance 1977
    • Chapter 12 ½ titled “Floodplains, Stormwater Runoff, and Erosion Control” was adopted June 6th 1977 which provided the City of Wheaton its first Stormwater Ordinance. The ordinance required subdivisions and other development to have detention, safe stormwater routing and acknowledged many new regulations for floodplain areas.
      • Note: Detention was to be provided for the 100-year storm, which was known to be 5.8 inches of rainfall over 24 hours.
  • Developing Outward 1978
    The City continued to develop and expand outwards. The subdivision requirements have increased and stormwater requirements have just been implemented requiring detention. At this point the City has grown to encompass 15/17 of the current flood prone areas, has completely developed right up Winfield Creek, and has developed right up to Springbrook#1 as well. This development resulted in placing private residences in locations where flooding is guaranteed to occur.
    An aerial view of Wheaton from 1978
  • FEMA Created / Floodplain Maps 1979
    FEMA is first created as a federal department in 1979 taking over duties from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The preliminary floodplain maps of 1974 finally go live on June 15, 1979 and the City can now regulate development in floodplain areas. The floodplain maps, however, only cover areas where there is a creek channel and are still calculated on the then known 100-year storm of 5.8 inches of rainfall over 24 hours.
  • DuPage Stormwater Ordinance 1991
    DuPage County passes the DuPage County Stormwater Ordinance and the City of Wheaton adopts the ordinance into its City Code which increases requirements for stormwater regulations. As such additional detention is required; providing more protection in large rainfalls.
  • Rainfall Frequency Atlas - Midwest 1992
    A new rainfall study was published that had the benefit of an extra 31 years of rainfall data to make better predictions about what total rainfall creates a 100-year storm. For Wheaton this resulted in the 100-year storm now being known as 7.58 inches of rainfall over 24 hours. Detention requirements were increased in light of this new information, however all previous detention now only provided protection to approximately 30-year storm levels instead of the 100-year storm level previously thought!
  • Developing Outward 1998
    The City continued to develop and expand outwards. The subdivision requirements have increased greatly and stormwater requirements are now generally modern standards. Unfortunately, at this time the City is mostly built out and although detention has been implemented in the new areas in Southern Wheaton, it has been provided at what is now known as a 30 year storm level. At this point the City has grown to encompass all 17 of the current flood prone areas, has completely developed right up Winfield Creek, and has developed right up to Springbrook#1 as well.
    An aerial view of Wheaton from 1998
  • FEMA Maps Updated 2004
    FEMA Floodplain maps were updated throughout the City of Wheaton however the creeks were not restudied using new rainfall information. The existing study was simply updated using better aerial topographic ground information. Part of this update also added more floodplain zones in well known flooding areas near downtown.
    2004 FEMA Maps Updated
  • City's First Stormwater Engineer 2008
    Wheaton fills a newly created Stormwater Engineer position to focus solely on the City’s stormwater issues created by development that occurred before regulations were in place to prevent it.
  • Developing Outward 2011
    The City continues to develop and expand outwards into whatever small areas remain. The subdivision and stormwater requirements are now the modern standard and detention has been provided for the 100 year storm for the last twenty years for all new developments.
  • Stormwater Ordinance Update 2013
    DuPage County revises the DuPage County Stormwater Ordinance and greatly reduces the detention requirements. The City of Wheaton chooses to keep its own Stormwater Ordinance in place to continue to require detention at a high level for developments.
  • Community Rating System 2018
    The City of Wheaton joins FEMA’s Community Rating System Program which grades communities based on their Stormwater Practices and Regulations and provides all property owners in that community a discount on flood insurance rates. The City’s Practices and Regulations garners enough points to enter the program as a level 6 which provides a 20% discount on flood insurance rates!

City of Wheaton Aerial Views 1939 - 2011

EXIT/CONCLUSION

The development done in the past has presented stormwater challenges for today.

In response to those challenges, City Council has enacted a Strategic Initiative to determine what improvements can be done to improve the flooding that occurs in the City of Wheaton. This initiative has enabled the Engineering Department to have Hydraulic Studies of Flood Prone Areas and surveying in the Floodplain performed all to work towards the goal of decreasing flooding and flood damages. It is also recognized that flooding can occur anywhere throughout the City, not just the Floodplain and Flood Prone Areas, so the Drainage Review program is available to aid residents in the city with any stormwater questions or concerns that they may have. For more specific information on the City of Wheaton’s current Stormwater Programs click the links on the left!