Stormwater is a major threat to water quality on our planet.
When it rains, water flows over impervious surface (like paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops) picking up trash and other less visible pollutants, such as gasoline, motor oil, heavy metals, fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste. Because the water cannot absorb into the ground, it flows into storm drains, which lead to the nearest stream, creek, river, lake, bay or ocean.
Unlike the sewer system, stormwater is not treated. That means stormwater carries toxic substances downstream. Polluted runoff is one of the major threats to water quality in the United States and is the largest source of pollution for Southern California’s coastal waters (source).
When toxic chemicals, bacteria, nutrients and litter are directly entering waterways, it can disrupt the delicate balance of our ecosystem in the following ways:
Sediment can cloud water and disrupt photosynthesis making it difficult for plants to survive.
Excess nutrients can impact oxygen levels in the ocean causing fish and other marine life to die.
Bacteria and other water-born illnesses can pose a threat to humans and often requires beach closures (think rashes, ear infections, stomach troubles).
Litter such as cigarette butts, plastic cups and bottles can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.
Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
Today is Earth Day. It’s a chance to show our planet some love and we figured it would be a great time to grow the conversation about stormwater. It’s an issue that doesn’t get a lot of attention but has an enormous impact on the quality of our most precious resource – water!
There are lots of ways you can get involved to help reduce stormwater pollution, but one of the biggest ways is to spread awareness.