Storm Water Background

What is storm water?

Car in Rain Storm Drain Storm water is precipitation that flows over the ground and pavement when it rains. This water makes it way into roadside ditches, storm drains or streams and rivers. Storm water runoff is generated from impervious areas such as paved streets, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, and rooftops. Storm water runoff is considered point source pollution and require coverage by a federal Storm Water Permit to regulate and control it.

Why is storm water a problem?

As storm water flows over driveways, lawns and sidewalks, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt, bacteria and other pollutants. Storm water can flow into a storm sewer system or directly to a stream or river. Stormwater is different than toilet and sink wastewater, which goes to a treatment plant before being discharged into the river. Runoff that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the waterways we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water. Polluted runoff is the nation’s greatest threat to clean water.

What is polluting our water?

Common pollutants include oil and grease from roadways, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, sediment from construction sites, and carelessly discarded trash, such as cigarette butts, paper wrappers, and plastic bottles. When deposited into nearby waterways through storm water sewers, these pollutants can impair the waterways, thereby discouraging recreational use of the resource, contaminating drinking water supplies, and interfering with the habitat for fish and wildlife.

What can I do about storm water pollution?

Storm water pollution from point sources and non-point sources is a challenging water quality problem. Unlike pollution from industry or sewage treatment facilities, which is caused by a discrete number of sources, storm water pollution is caused by the daily activities of people everywhere.

By practicing healthy household habits, homeowners can keep common pollutants like pesticides, pet waste, grass clippings, and automotive fluids off the ground and out of storm water. Remember to share the habits with your neighbors!

Visit SEMCOG's website to find out how you can help protect our local waterways.