Stormwater is all of the outside water from rain, snow or irrigation.
Stormwater runoff is the water that runs over streets, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, and gutters into the storm drain.
Stormwater pollution is caused by most anything that is left on the ground, especially on those surfaces where the stormwater runoff carries it directly — untreated — into local creeks, gutters and lakes.
Jack Wilbur, Salt Lake County Stormwater Coalition, and Droplet, the mascot, joined us to explain by making "Pollution Soup".
They say some of the most troublesome things that contribute to this are:
o Pet waste Pet waste carries bacteria, such as E.coli. Every section of the Jordan River is considered "impaired" by EPA. Pet waste is one of the leading causes of the impairment. Bag and trash pet waste every time.
o Trash In addition to blocking waterways, trash carries harmful bacteria, oils, and chemicals directly into our waterways. Pick up and throw away trash.
o Fallen Leaves Excess nutrients in our water bodies caused by this "natural" waste adds nutrients that lead to algae blooms, and that are very bad news to fish and other aquatic life, and through a process called Eutrophication, can make humans very sick.
o Fertilizer Any fertilizer not absorbed by plants or grass carries excess nutrients into the ground, then into aquifers, and finally into our waterways. Any dry or pellet fertilizer that gets onto a hard surface, such as sidewalks or driveways needs to be swept back onto the lawn or garden or thrown into the trash. If you must use fertilizer, use it VERY sparingly
Even during a drought, pollutants that are not picked up remain on the ground until the next storm comes. The longer the period between storms, the more concentrated the pollutants become.
Even if the pollutants break down and you can't see them, the harmful elements are still there.
When it does rain, the stormwater runoff mobilizes these pollutants, which include heavy metals, oils, pet waste, fertilizers, trash, and many other substances.
The storm event carries the now densely concentrated runoff, untreated, through the storm drains into our streams, canals, rivers, and lakes, creating potentially deadly consequences for fish and other aquatic life, hampering recreation opportunities and potentially harming human health and setting up conditions for eutrophication.
There are simple things we all can do to prevent stormwater pollution:
Bag and trash pet waste
Pick up and throw away trash left anywhere outside
Compost, mulch, or rake and bag fallen leaves (and grass clippings in the spring & summer)
Use fertilizer sparingly, if at all
There are also simple things you can do to help with stormwater during a drought:
Conserve water by reducing or removing the amount of lawn, park strip, or other features in your yard that require water
Capture rainwater from your rooftop for watering gardens and trees
Use composted leaves around plants and bushes to keep water from evaporating and hold in moisture