Stormwater is rainwater or melted snow that runs off streets, lawns and other sites and flows into streams and rivers. When stormwater is absorbed into soil, it is filtered and ultimately replenishes aquifers.
In developed areas, surfaces such as pavement and roofs prevent precipitation from naturally soaking into the ground. Instead, water runs rapidly into storm drains, sewer systems and drainage ditches and can cause:
- Downstream flooding
- Stream bank erosion
- Increased turbidity (muddiness created by stirred up sediment) from erosion
- Habitat destruction
- Combined sewer overflows
- Infrastructure damage
- Contaminated streams, rivers and coastal water
Pollutants entering surface waters during precipitation events is being recognized as a cause of pollution. In some coastal areas, polluted runoff from roads and highways may be the largest source of water pollution.
Managing the quantity and quality of stormwater is known as "Stormwater Management". Education is a key component of stormwater management. People need to understand what they can do to protect our water for swimming, fishing, and drinking.
Most people contribute to pollution unknowingly. When it rains on a freshly fertilized lawn those chemicals can be washed into our waterways. Another example is when a person washes his/her car and the detergents used run down the driveway and into the storm drain.
There are a number of things that people can change or limit in their everyday lives to help reduce pollution. All it takes are a few simple changes in your daily lifestyle.
- If you own a car, maintain it so it does not leak oil or other fluids. Be sure to wash it on the grass or at a car wash so the dirt and soap do not flow down the driveway and into the nearest storm drain.
- If you own a yard, do not over fertilize your grass. Never apply fertilizers or pesticides before a heavy rain. If fertilizer falls onto driveways or sidewalks, sweep it up instead of hosing it away. Mulch leaves and grass clippings and place leaves in the yard at the curb, not in the street. Doing this keeps leaves out of the gutter, where they can wash into the nearest storm drain. Turn your gutter downspouts away from hard surfaces, seed bare spots in your yard to avoid erosion and consider building a rain garden in low-lying areas of your lawn.
- If you have a septic system, maintain it properly by having it pumped every three to five years. If it is an older system, be sure it can still handle the volume placed on it today. Never put chemicals down septic systems, they can harm the system and seep into the groundwater.
- Pet owners should pick up after their pets and dispose of pet waste in the garbage.
- Keep lawn and household chemicals tightly sealed and in a place where rain cannot reach them. Dispose of old or unwanted chemicals at household hazardous waste collections sites or events.
- Never put anything in a storm drain.
- Don’t litter.