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Stormwater runoff is water from rain or melting snow that “runs off” across the land instead of seeping into the ground. This runoff usually flows into the nearest stream, creek, river, lake or ocean without being treated.
Water from rain and melting snow either seeps into the ground or “runs off” to lower areas, making its way into streams, lakes and other water bodies. On its way, this stormwater runoff can pick up and carry many substances that pollute water.
Some – like pesticides, fertilizers, oil and soap – are harmful in any quantity. Others – like sediment from construction, bare soil, or agricultural land, or pet waste, grass clippings and leaves – can harm creeks, rivers and lakes in sufficient quantities. In addition to rain and snowmelt, various human activities like watering, car washing, and malfunctioning septic tank (should we include anything about faulty sewer lines?) can also put water onto the land surface. Here, it can also create runoff that carries pollutants to creeks, rivers and lakes.
Polluted runoff generally happens anywhere people use or alter the land and is a large problem in suburban/urban areas. For example, in developed areas, none of the water that falls on hard surfaces such as roofs, driveways, parking lots or roads can seep into the ground. These impervious surfaces create large amounts of runoff that pick up pollutants. The runoff flows from gutters and storm drains to streams. This large volume of runoff that in a naturalized watershed would soak into the ground, now enters our creeks causing streambanks to erode putting large quantities of sediment into the waterway harming aquatic life and causing problems downstream.
Solving the problems created by stormwater pollution will require the help of every property owner in the watershed. There are many small ways in which property owners can help stop stormwater pollution and improve the quality of our local creeks.
These include: Rain Barrels, Rain Gardens, Vegetation Swales, Buffers and Conservation Landscaping.