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Why is Stormwater an Issue?

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.

  • 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 pesticides, paint, solvents, and used motor oil can poison aquatic life.

  • Polluted stormwater can affect drinking water sources.

As land is developed, impervious surfaces like roofs, streets, and parking lots block rain from soaking into the ground and increase stormwater runoff. The percent of impervious surface in a small watershed is a good indicator of potential water quality impacts in streams receiving stormwater from 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.


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Protecting Water Quality from Stormwater Runoff