Causes and Solutions:
What Is Stormwater Pollution?
Stormwater comes from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. It flows from rooftops, over paved areas, bare soil, and sloped lawns. As it flows, stormwater runoff collects and transports animal waste, litter, salt, pesticides, fertilizers, oil & grease, soil and other potential pollutants.
What Is A Watershed?
A watershed is all of the land that drains into the same location or body of water. Riverside County has three watersheds: Santa Ana, Santa Margarita, and Whitewater.
What’s The Problem?
Rain and snowmelt wash pollutants from streets, construction sites, and land into storm drains and ditches. Eventually, these empty the polluted stormwater directly into streams and rivers with no treatment. This is known as stormwater pollution.
A “sanitary sewer system” and a “storm drain system” are not the same. Water that goes down a sink, shower or other inside drain flows to either a wastewater treatment plant or to a septic system for treatment. Storm drain flows are not treated. Water that flows down driveways, streets, and outside areas into a storm drain that goes directly to nearby creeks, fish and wildlife habitats, downstream recreational areas, and drinking water supplies.
Why Should I Care?
Polluted stormwater degrades our lakes, rivers, wetlands and other waterways. Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen can cause the overgrowth of algae resulting in oxygen depletion in waterways. Hazardous substances from motor vehicles and the over-application of pesticides and fertilizers threaten water quality and can kill fish and other aquatic life. Bacteria from animal wastes and improper connections to storm drain systems can make lakes and waterways unsafe for wading, swimming and fish consumption.
What Are The Most Common Pollutants Found In Stormwater?
There are many types of pollutants that find their way into storm drains. Some common pollutants found in storm drains and creeks include:
- Animal waste
- Litter: cigarette butts, styrofoam and take-out containers
- Automotive chemicals: Motor oil, fuels, lubricants and antifreeze
- Yard clippings
- Fertilizers and pesticides
- Soapy car wash water
- Household chemicals: paint, solvents, degreasers, and drain cleaners
How Can I Help?
Every Riverside County resident can play a role in reducing stormwater pollution. Here are a few important suggestions:
- Don’t litter. Make sure that you pick up any trash that you or your family may have dropped on sidewalks or streets. Trash left in these places will end up in our storm drains.
- Drop off hazardous waste. Be sure to always take household hazardous waste (HHW) like antifreeze, paints, solvents, cleaners and old batteries to a certified collection facility. Riverside County has three permanent collection centers that offer free drop-off service and safe disposal of your unwanted chemicals.
- Pick up after your animals: Make sure you clean up animal wastes, not only on your own lawn but also when you walk your pet. This will reduce the amount of bacteria that gets into our waterways.
- Keep your car well-maintained. Fix any fluid leaks promptly and make sure to clean up any spills. Recycle used oil at Certified Collection Centers in your neighborhood. Most locations are automotive centers or retail stores with convenient hours. Please limit the amount of used oil you are recycling to no more than 5 gallons per trip. For a list of participating centers please call 1-800-CLEANUP or visit CalRecycle’s Used Oil Certified Centers Map.
- Participate in a community cleanup. One of the best ways to fight stormwater pollution is to participate in a community cleanup.
- Don’t overwater. In a time of drought, overwatering not only wastes a precious and expensive resource, it also creates urban water runoff, which picks up pollution that enters our storm drains and waterways.
- Wash your car over your lawn or gravel. This allows the ground to neutralize the soap and grime from your car rather than sending it directly to our creeks and streams. Use biodegradable or non-toxic soap that is phosphate-free. You can also take your car to a commercial car wash where wastewater is either recycled or treated.
- Keep your septic system well-maintained to prevent leaks. A leaking septic system can leach harmful bacteria into storm drain systems and local waterways. It is important to keep your system well-maintained to prevent costly repairs as well.
- Learn more about how to reduce stormwater pollution: Materials are available for community members, businesses, contractors, developers and school teachers, as well as information tailored for our youngest residents.
- Educate friends and family. Share what you know about stormwater pollution with your family and friends.