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Why is Stormwater an Issue?

Stormwater Washes Pollutants into Waterways

Stormwater flowing into culvert
Rainfall is concentrated and carried through a storm drain system directly to a creek nearby.

Stormwater runoff can pick up and carry litter, nutrients, bacteria, chemicals, sediment (soil) and other pollutants through a storm drain system, untreated, to the nearest creek, stream or lake that we use for swimming, fishing and as a drinking water supply.

  • Sediment clouds the water and makes it difficult for aquatic plants to grow; it can destroy aquatic habitat.

  • Nutrients applied in excess cause algae blooms. When algae die, they sink and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can't exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.

  • Bacteria and pathogens washed into swimming areas can create health hazards.

  • Litter, including plastic bags, cans, bottles, and cigarette butts, washed into waterbodies can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.

  • Hazardous household products like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, and used motor oil can poison aquatic life.

  • Polluted stormwater can affect drinking water sources.

The percent of impervious surface in a small watershed is a good indicator of potential water quality impacts in streams draining that area. The streams in watersheds with more than 10% impervious cover will probably have impacted water quality. The more impervious cover, the greater the potential impact on local water resources. Rather than getting rid of stormwater as quickly as possible, a sustainable approach to stormwater management involves finding ways to harvest it onsite, using it for irrigation, ornamental water features, and groundwater recharge. As the value of water is recognized, the value of natural systems to store, clean, and distribute available fresh water must also be recognized.  Technology exists to integrate systems that mimic nature's capacity to store, filter, and clean water.


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