Public Education

FlowsEffects of Stormwater Runoff

  • Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals, and people.
  • Sediment can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment also can destroy aquatic habitats
  • Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms. When algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can't exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.
  • Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often making beach closures necessary.
  • Debris—plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts—washed into waterbodies can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.
  • Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick or die from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
  • Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.

Be the Solution to Runoff Pollution!

Constructed WetlandAs stormwater flows over driveways, lawns, and sidewalks, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants. Stormwater can flow into a storm sewer system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water. Polluted runoff is the nation's greatest threat to clean water.

By practicing healthy household habits, homeowners can keep common pollutants like pesticides, pet waste, grass clippings, and automotive fluids off the ground and out of stormwater. Adopt these healthy household habits and help protect lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, and coastal waters. Remember to share the habits with your neighbors!

Steps Residents Can Take to Prevent Stormwater Runoff Pollution:

  • Never dump anything down storm drains or in creeks.
  • Vegetate bare spots in your yard.
  • Use fertilizers sparingly and sweep driveways, sidewalks and gutters.
  • Use the least toxic pesticides.  Follow labels and learn how to prevent pest problems.
  • Compost yard waste.
  • Pick up after your pet.
  • Check your car for leaks and recycle motor oil.
  • Traditional concrete and asphalt don’t allow water to soak into the ground.  Use of permeable pavement systems allow rain and snow melt to soak through into the ground, decreasing stormwater runoff.
  • Wash your car on the lawn (not the driveway), or take your car to a commercial car wash
  • Use a rain barrel to catch and store water for gardens
  • Redirect down spouts from paved areas to vegetated areas
  • Install gravel trenches along driveways and patios
  • Grade driveway and walkways to direct water flow toward vegetated areas

What are Riparian Buffers? Click here:

Riparian Buffers: Pennsylvania's Best Solution for Protecting Its Waters (