Excess Water: The Consequences of Stormwater Pollution

Water that is leaking from pipes in a home, puddling from a yard sprinkler system, or overflowing from sewer lines can cause more than just simple property damage. This water overflow can run into our stormwater system and travel straight to Puget Sound. While as a society we have mostly moved away from the days of dumping toxic pollutants directly into local bodies of water, we are still sending polluted contaminants due to runoff into our local ecosystem.

What is Stormwater Pollution?

Stormwater consists of the, “sediment, grease, road grime, tire wear,” and litter that fall into storm drains. It is the untreated water that flows directly into our ecosystem from developed areas.  Earthfix reports also, that around 40 percent of the US Rivers and lakes are not even clean enough for fishing or swimming from this kind of runoff. The reason this problem has gotten to this point is that it wasn’t until the 1990s that effective stormwater provisions were added to the Clean Water Act. Essentially, we have been fighting an uphill battle to not only prevent future damage, but trying to clean up from the past.

What are the Main Issues in King County?

King County reports that, “most of the four million people who live in the Sound region contribute to stormwater pollution every day.” There are three primary problems caused by this pollution:

  • Stormwater contaminates Puget Sound and local waters by carrying contaminants from urban areas that can kill fish and other wildlife.
  • Flooding is caused by stormwater that quickly flows from developed land to oversaturated areas. It can destroy and damage homes, businesses, and septic drains along with wetlands and wildlife habitat.
  • Water shortages can actually occur, as highly developed areas are unable to soak up rainfall and replenish groundwater used in drinking water and fish habitats.

Here are some additional facts about stormwater pollution:

stormwater facts

Facts by King County Stormwater Service

How to Help

Stormwater drain

  • Find and fix any water leaks. Especially in developed areas like parking lots, an undetected leak can quickly cause extensive damage. If the source isn’t obvious, contact a professional with leak detecting radar or infrared sensing equipment.
  • Fertilize smart – Prevent unnecessary contamination by fertilizing sparingly and only when needed. Never fertilizer before a rainstorm, as this increases water contamination while decreasing any benefit to your plants. This may be difficult in the Puget Sound area, so try checking weather reports and taking advantage of sunny days for best results.
  • Practice clean car habits – Drive your car less and use public transportation, walk, bike, or carpool. Additionally, make sure to wash your car at a commercial car wash instead of at home. Use proper maintenance to make sure your vehicle is not emitting excess exhaust, or leaking oil and fluids.
  • Join a local program – Get educated and join a local group like Seattle Tilth’s Water Smart Program. Get free information and attend free education classes. Another great group is 12,000 Rain Gardens, promoting smart landscaping to reduce runoff and increase home values.

Remember that the water you don’t use, can be just as important as the water that you do use. Practice sensible storm water management to reduce your waste and pollutants to save both money and the environment.