Our everyday activities can really contribute to stormwater pollution if we aren’t careful. Trash, litter, pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, oil, you name it – it can end up in the storm drain and on its way to the nearest stream before you know it! Of course, that pollution can have a major impact on the fish and other animals that live in those streams, ponds, and rivers where the pollution ends up. What would happen if the fish could tell us they didn’t appreciate us sharing our dirty stormwater with them?
Check out the video below to see what happened when Jonny Fishpatrick was fed up with the stormwater pollution being dumped in his home, and imagine how this could be happening in your neighborhood!
When soil, dirt, sand, clay, or other tiny bits of earth end up in stormwater, we then call it “sediment” because those pieces can eventually settle out to the bottom of a body of water. However, moving water such as stormwater runoff through our neighborhoods and cities keeps the sediment from settling and can cause serious problems for water quality.
What does sediment do in the environment?
Sediment pollution creates many issues in the environment; here are just a few!
Clogs fish gills and suffocates small insects and other animals;
Creates murky, cloudy water that blocks sunlight from reaching plants;
Transports hundreds of other chemicals and pollutants to our drinking water that are hitching a ride on the sediment;
Encourages growth of toxic algae that can make people and animals sick;
Completely changes the course of a river or stream by depositing new banks!
What can we do to reduce stormwater pollution from sediment?
Sediment can come from many sources, such as construction sites or digging, erosion when vegetation has been removed, and even just dust and grime from your driveway, car, and sidewalk. You can help keep this dirt from getting in our streams and rivers by sweeping up instead of hosing down!
If you see muddy brown water being deliberately sent into the storm drain like in the photo below, or if you see lots of sediment coming from a construction site, call your local water department (contact info here) and let them know right away.
Thanks to Tyler with the Green Teens Club for sending over this great resource on water pollution! This infographic from Basement Guides offers a lot of interesting information on sources of contaminants in your home, as well as additional data on pollution around the world. Click on the image below to take a look at their site!
Also check out the Green Teens Club website below to find more information about environmental issues, as well as see the cool work the Club is doing in their area. Maybe you’ll want to start your own club!
A watershed is an area of land where all water drains to a particular waterbody, usually a stream, river, or the ocean. Watersheds cover the entire land surface of the earth. Watersheds contain homes, neighborhoods, cities, forests, farmland, and more. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes and can even cross state lines.
The graphic above shows how water travels over a landscape and eventually forms streams and rivers. In a natural environment, this water would be pretty clean; however, when rain hits an impervious surface it creates stormwater runoff, which picks up pollutants and enters the nearest creek or stream. This creek or stream will join others to form larger streams, which join others to flow into larger rivers. Just like streams, smaller watersheds join together to form larger watersheds. That means any pollution that enters our stormwater can transported throughout an entire watershed.
All of us live in a watershed – let’s keep them clean! Use this EPA tool to Surf Your Watershed and find out more about how stormwater, runoff, and streams connect to form watersheds in your area.
Stream (also called riparian) buffers are strips of trees and other vegetation that:
improve water quality by filtering pollutants from stormwater runoff such as oil, fertilizers, pesticides, and dog waste;
reduce flooding and erosion by stabilizing stream banks;
moderate stream temperature and sunlight, keeping fish and other aquatic life healthy;
provide nesting and foraging habitat for many species of birds and animals.
You can help stream buffers purify our water by planting native trees and bushes along your stream or ditch, especially if the bank is bare or eroding. If you already have trees or shrubs along your waterway, simply leave it alone!
Mowing, cutting, and removing buffer vegetation may be regulated in your area, so check with your local government before undertaking landscaping or other projects within 100 feet of any water conveyances. (Selective cutting of understory shrubs and scrub by hand is usually allowed in very small amounts, but it is better to let the vegetation continue its natural regeneration process, which will allow trees to mature, form a canopy, and prevent undergrowth naturally.) Continue reading →