WHAT IS URBAN STORM WATER?
Stormwater refers to the water (either rain or snowmelt) that flows over the land and heads downhill towards the nearest stream or ditch. In a natural setting, most rainfall or snowmelt would soak into the soil, the soil filtering out sediment and pollutants. Cities and towns have many "impervious surfaces", such as driveways, roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and rooftops, that water can't penetrate. Instead, these impervious surfaces collect the stormwater, as well as oil and other toxic chemicals from parking lots and houses, and sends it straight to storm drains which drain directly into your local lake or stream.
WHY CARE ABOUT STORM WATER?
Water in the West is a precious commodity as our desert landscape doesn't provide us with very much water. The Intermountain West is also experiencing some of the fastest urban growth in the United States, which is causing an increase in water use, especially for watering lawns and gardens. This increase use has taken strong blows at the local environment. The construction as well as increase in impervious surfaces has also taken a heavy toll on the water quality that we rely on. The desert climate has exacerbated the issue as during dry spells, toxic chemicals accumulate on impervious surfaces, then rush into the local water bodies in high concentrations through storm drains.
Human caused factors are very influential on stormwater quality in urban areas. We
do so much that changes the natural flow of water and we add many chemicals that are
not only toxic to the local wildlife, but also to ourselves. A common misconception
is that storm drains first drain water to a treatment plant, but since that's not
usually true it is important that we do what we can to maintain our stormwater clean.
Below are things that we do that impact stormwater quality as well as things you can
do to limit your impacts on stormwater quality.
As watersheds are all connected, stormwater is a community commodity that affects everyone. Visit our Community Stormwater page to learn more about what you can do to help protect the stormwater in your community.
Green infrastructure can be easy and affordable and can have huge impacts on water quality. It can be incorporated in the home as well as throughout an entire community. Explore our Green Infrastructure page to see what you can do at your home.
EPA STORMWATER PROGRAM
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a lot of valuable information about the problems and potential solutions to the effects of urbanization on stormwater. Visit the EPA Stormwater Program webpage to learn more.
STORM DRAIN STENCILING
Putting up friendly reminders about where storm drains send water is a great way to help protect your stormwater. Look at our Storm Drain Stenciling page to see how this has positively impacted stormwater in Utah.
Since our water is scarce in Utah, conserving it is extremely important. Visit our Water Conservation page to see what conservation practices you can incorporate in your home and yard.