Why all the fuss about storm water? The City of Washington is growing and development is on the rise. As active communities grow, grasslands, woodlands, meadows, and croplands are covered by impervious surfaces such as buildings, concrete, and asphalt.
The storm water runoff from vegetated areas is only about 10-20 percent (depends on topography and slopes) of the rainfall that falls on it while the runoff from impervious areas approaches 100 percent of the rainfall that falls on it. Storm water runoff is the water that flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, and other impervious surfaces during rainstorms. Rather than being absorbed into the ground, it flows through ditches, culverts, catch basins, and storm sewers. As the runoff flows it picks up pollutants. Examples of the pollutants are oils and other petroleum products and toxic chemicals from motor vehicles in parking areas, fertilizers and pesticides from farm fields and lawns, sediments from construction sites, road salts and chemicals from streets and highways, viruses, bacteria, and nutrients from wildlife and pet wastes, and trash and litter. The run-off does not receive any treatment before being discharged into our streams, rivers, and lakes. These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water supplies, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.
What can we do?
10 things we can do to help prevent storm water runoff pollution.
1. Use fertilizers sparingly and sweep up driveways, sidewalks, and roads.
2. Never dump anything down storm drains.
3. Vegetate bare spots in your yard.
4. Compost your yard waste.
5. Avoid pesticides; learn about Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
6. Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces.
7. Take your car to the car wash instead of washing it in the driveway.
8. Check car for leaks, and recycle motor oil.
9. Pickup after your pet.
10. If you have a septic tank, pump it regularly.
Clean Water Act
Strategies to Minimize Polluted Runoff
Key Finding - Nonpoint source pollution is the number one water quality problem in the United States today. As the intensity of development increases, so does the amount of nonpoint source pollution or polluted runoff. A good indicator of the intensity of development in a given area is the amount of impervious surface (asphalt, concrete, roofing, etc.). Studies have shown that increased impervious surface coverage in a watershed increases the degradation of its water systems.
The Problem - Development affects both the quantity and quality of storm water runoff, which in turn has impacts on water systems. By enhancing and channeling surface drainage, impervious surfaces increase the volume and velocity of runoff. This often results in flooding, erosion, and permanent alterations in stream form and function. In addition, by blocking the infiltration of water and its associated pollutants into the soil, impervious surfaces interfere with natural processing of nutrients, sediment, pathogens, and other contaminants, resulting in degradation of surface water quality.
What can be done?
- Local officials can do much to protect their water resources by considering the location, extent, drainage, and maintenance of impervious surfaces at individual sites as well as at watershed levels. To learn more...
Protecting Water Quality from Urban Runoff (PDF Format) - This fact sheet explains how urbanized areas affect water quality through increased runoff and pollutant loads and what homeowners can do to prevent stormwater pollution.
After the Storm Brochure (PDF Format) - Provides a broad overview of stormwater pollution, including runoff from residential and commercial properties, farms, construction sites, automotive facilities, forestry operations, and others.
http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/after_the_storm.pdf (PDF file *)
Make Your Home the Solution to Stormwater Pollution Brochure (PDF Format) - This short brochure is targeted directly to homeowners and provides tips on a wide variety of simple things that homeowners can do to prevent stormwater pollution.
Water Efficient Landscaping (PDF Format) - This booklet describes the benefits of water-efficient, low-impact landscaping. It includes examples of successful projects, programs, and contacts.
http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/waterefficiency.pdf (PDF file *)
Information regarding green roof technology and roof gardens or "sky gardens".
Stormwater Management: A Guide for Auto Recycler Owners and Operators (PDF Format) - This 8-page brochure describes how auto recyclers and operators can prevent polluted runoff through activities such as employee training, spill cleanup, and parts storage.
http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/ownersfinal.pdf (PDF file *)
Why all the fuss about erosion and sediment control?
"According to the EPA, sedimentation and siltation problems account for more identified water quality impairments of U.S. waters than any other pollutant." This is because sediments pickup other pollutants as they travel across other surfaces.
Why do we care?
Water Quality . Sediment is the number one pollutant, by volume, of surface waters in the State of Indiana. It impacts water quality by degrading the habitat of acquatic organisms and fish, by decreasing recreational value and by promoting the growth of nuisance weeds and algae.
The five major types of pollutants that are found in sediments are:
Nutrients, including phosphorous and nitrogen compounds such as ammonia. Elevated levels of phosphorous can promote the unwanted growth of algae. This can lead to the amount of oxygen in the water being lowered when the algae die and decay. High concentrations of ammonia can be toxic to benthic organisms.
Bulk Organics, a class of hydrocarbons that includes oil and grease. Halogenated Hydrocarbons or Persistent Organics, a group of chemicals that are very resistant to decay. DDT and PCBs are in this category.
Metals, including iron, manganese, lead, cadmium, zinz, and mercury and metalloids such as arsenic and selenium.
Contaminated sediments can harm and kill small creatures such as worms, crustaceans, and insect larvae that inhabit the bottom of a water body, thus reducing the food available to larger creatures such as fish, waterfowl, and marine mammals. Sediments can also clog gills and kill fish. The contaminants can work their way up the food chain resulting in eventual harm to humans.
Local Taxes. Sediment that finds its way into streets, storm sewers, and ditches results in additional maintenance costs for local governments.
Flooding. Sediment accumulation in streams, lakes and rivers reduces their capacities which can result in increased flooding.
Property Values. Sediment deposits not only impair water quality but also damage property, thus reducing its use and value.
The Greatest Cost: We only have one earth, and future generations, our children, grandchildren, and their descendants will inherit this same earth in whatever shape we leave it along with the costs we pass to them.
IDEM Storm Water General Permit Rule 5 - Regulations regarding construction activities that disturb one (1) or more acres of land.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil Conservation - Brochure regarding the Division of Soil Conservation's Stormwater and Sediment Control program.
http://www.in.gov/dnr/soilcons/pdfs/stormwater.pdf (PDF file *)
Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil Conservation - Erosion & Sediment Control for Individual Building Sites.
International Erosion Control Association - Connects, educates, and develops the worldwide erosion and sediment control community.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts - A link to Indiana's Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD)
Indiana DNR/Purdue University Cooperative Extension Services - Soil and Water Quality Program - Education and SWCD Support.