Stormwater runoff is rain that falls on streets, parking areas, sports fields, gravel lots, rooftops or other developed land and flows directly into nearby creeks and rivers.
Rain picks up and mixes with what’s on the ground: Oil, grease, metals and coolants from vehicles; Fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals from gardens and homes; Bacteria from pet wastes and failing septic systems; Soil from construction sites and other bare ground; Soaps from car or equipment washing; and accidental spills, leaky storage containers, tobacco spit, cigarette butts and whatever else dots the landscapes.
What and Why?
The most effective way to reduce stormwater pollution is to stop it getting in there in the first place! The water that runs off the roads, your roof, footpath and driveway are the beginning of the stormwater system. The polluted runoff rushes into nearby gutters and storm drains where it flows through a system of underground pipes and channels. From there, the untreated water empties into your local streams, rivers, and lakes on its path towards the oceans.
Local Issues and Municipal Mandates
Here are some common pollutants found in stormwater runoff:
Litter- such as cigarette butts, cans, bottles, paper or plastic bags
Sediment- usually from soil erosion
Nutrient load- originating from animal waste, fertilizers, agricultural runoff, and natural decomposition
Bacteria- often from pet waste, septic systems & agricultural runoff
Chemicals- such as oil, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals
What you can do
Due to the vast number of storm drains and high volume of stormwater runoff, it is very difficult and costly to install, maintain, and manage any sort of filtration system to eliminate these pollutants before being discharged. It is up to every individual to do his or her part to keep our waterways clean and pristine!
Everyone has a part to play. Reducing the pollution depends on every person preventing harmful natural or chemical substances entering the storm drains.
Effects of stormwater on plants and animals
- Animal waste, particularly from farms animals and pets, often has harmful bacteria that can end end up in the water. If consumed, it can make some animals, including people, very ill.
- Excess nutrients from pet waste and agricultural practices can led to algal blooms (excessive growth of algae).
- When algae decays it takes away vital oxygen away from plants, fish, and other aquatic animals.
- Sediment in the water, often from soil erosion caused by construction and/or deforestation, reduces light penetration and affects photosynthesis, the processes that allow plants to use light as their source of energy. Too much sediment, also, makes oxygen availability more scare, stressing aquatic
- Litter clogs waterways and is often mistake for food or causes animals to become entangled. As substances like plastic begin to photo-degrade (breaking into microscopic pieces), aquatic organisms further their intake of these man-made materials along with any chemicals on them.
- Many chemicals are attracted to and will bond with plastics in our waters. Over time, this builds up in the food-web (bio-magnification) leading to health effects such as hormone disruptions and heavy metal poisoning.
- Litter and pollution has an effect on the recreational amenities of our waterways. No one wants to canoe in or hike near a river that smells like rotting fish!
For more information on municipal programs click on the links below:
City of Roanoke:
Town of Vinton:
City of Salem: