Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that doesn't soak into the ground but runs off into waterways. It flows from rooftops, over impervious surfaces (driveways and roadways), bare soil, and through sloped lawns picking up a variety of materials and contaminants on its way. As it flows, stormwater runoff collects and transports soil, animal waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, grease, debris, and other potential pollutants. After these contaminants are carried away by stormwater runoff, which is untreated water, they are discharged into the bodies of water that we use for fishing, swimming, and drinking water.
Why You Should Care
Polluted stormwater can contribute to a number of significant water quality concerns:
Cloudy water due to sediment inflow destroys aquatic habitats and hinders aquatic plant growth.
Excessive amount of nutrients lead to algae blooms. Oxygen levels decline when the algae die and decompose. Without oxygen, fish and other aquatic organisms can’t survive.
Bacteria and other pathogens (i.e. fecal waste) discharged in swimming areas generate health hazards.
Debris washed into the water can choke and/or suffocate aquatic life (e.g., ducks, fish, birds, and turtles).
Household hazardous wastes (insecticides, pesticides, paint, motor oil, etc.) can poison and ultimately kill aquatic life.
Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources; this puts human health at risk and causes water treatment costs to rise.