Stormwater Pollution

What is Storm Water Pollution?

If you drive during a rain storm and notice "dirty" water running off a construction site, or see a metallic oily sheen running over a nearby parking lot, you have just witnessed a form of stormwater pollution, or "non-point source" pollution. This runoff occurs when rainwater, snowmelt, or irrigation water doesn't soak into the ground but runs off the land or developed surfaces into a body of water.

As runoff flows over surfaces, including our streets, parking lots, yards, construction sites, farms, and forests, it picks up the things in its path including fertilizers, loose soil (sediment), animal waste, leaking motor oil, chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, oil, grease, metals, pathogens (bacteria and viruses) and trash. This Runoff drains either directly to a nearby water body or to a storm drain that flows to a water body without any treatment.

Everyday activities, such as walking the dog, fertilizing the lawn, washing your car, changing your oil, and even mowing your lawn can also contribute to stormwater pollution. However, by changing your habits in some small ways you can help reduce the stormwater pollution and help clean up our areas waterways.

What You Can Do to Help

City residents can help manage stormwater by trying some of these suggestions:

  • Report when you see a spill or an illicit discharge.
  • Properly dispose of any household hazardous waste you may have at home.
  • Don't dump anything down storm drains (PDF).
  • Don't throw litter (paper, cans, and cigarette butts) into the street.
  • Don't wash your car at home – use a commercial car wash which use water more efficiently and dispose of it properly, OR Wash the car on the grass where the water can soak into the ground.
  • Wash tools and toys over a grass or dirt area so the water can soak into the ground.
  • Try using natural solutions instead of chemical fertilizers (PDF) or pesticides.
  • Compost  grass, leaves, branches, and other yard waste.
  • Clean up pet waste and put it in the trash.
  • If you do your own auto repairs and drain or fill automobile fluids, make sure you catch and dispose of them properly.
  • Use ice-melting salt sparingly in the winter.
  • Plant a rain garden or make and install a rain barrel.