71% of Earth is made up of water. Water is a lifesource, habitat, power supplier, and refuge for every carbon-based organism on our planet. With this in mind, it is important to step back and consider if we are doing enough to protect our life-saving water bodies. Our natural water bodies fuel nature. There are many environmental protection efforts designed for this very purpose, yet among the most important and effective is stormwater management.
“Stormwater” is one of those terms that just about everyone has heard about but only a few actually know what it is. It makes sense that many find themselves in this position, mainly because the only time they have encountered it is in the form of a metal drain in the middle of a parking lot or on the side of a street. The great thing about stormwater is that everyone from construction sites to local municipalities to neighborhood parking lots has a significant role to play. The first step of this role is to understand what it is.
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater management is the control of potential and current pollutants within land runoff into major local water bodies. For example, proper stormwater management keeps all of the pollution–such as litter, oil, paint, grass clippings, and other harmful substances–from getting washed down into nearby drains and eventually into water bodies. The metal drains in your neighborhood can be polluted too so it is very important for every city to complete their inspections. Stormwater is everywhere and it’s important to be mindful. Through the EPA’s requirement of consistent, scheduled inspections for every city, construction site, and industrial property, we are finally starting to rein in our country’s water pollution problem.
Stormwater management is enforced through several requirements unique to the organization overseeing the land. For example, construction companies have to make sure that their sites are clean from any sort of foreign substance that could find its way into nearby drains. They have to complete inspections that make sure that their site is in compliance with the EPA’s guidelines.
Similarly, the industrial sector has to follow requirements such as properly storing hazardous chemicals and following specific mandates when disposing harmful substances so that our water bodies will not be exposed to such pollutants. The entire goal of proper stormwater management is to keep all drains clear and our waters safe.
On an individual level, we all can and should participate in proper stormwater management by regulating anything that will eventually go into our drains. Examples of this are making sure that our grass clippings are kept off the street and sidewalk by sweeping them up and properly disposing them, washing our cars on the lawn so that the soil can absorb the water while breaking down any potentially harmful substance, and cleaning up after our pets.
Why should you care?
Unfortunately, our nation’s focus on stormwater compliance hasn’t existed forever. In fact, it took a series of events such as Ohio’s Cuyahoga River to catch on fire 13 times (resulting from an unregulated dumping of oil and other flammables by industrial facilities directly into the river) to lead to the creation of the EPA and the Clean Water Act–which is a federal law that protects our waters from contamination. The EPA and Clean Water Act’s goal is much greater than just preventing river fires, as they understand that pollution of our water bodies could have serious country-wide effects. For example, the Cuyahoga River directly runs into Lake Erie, which means that the river carries everything that it picks up, natural and manmade, into the Great Lake. This was an issue occurring all across the nation. Large-water contamination must be taken seriously as quality livelihood is dependent on our waters being drinkable, fishable, and swimmable. We are threatened if we don’t have clean water to drink, if we consume harmful chemicals through contaminated seafood, and if our water bodies are dangerous to even touch.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of these things, you’re not alone. Though the Clean Water Act has improved water quality, we still have a long way to go. By educating the public and actively watching for pollutants, we can help prevent pollution in the first place. Prevention is a much easier method than cleaning water bodies after they’ve been contaminated. By reading this article, you’ve taken the first step. I hope that now that you have learned about stormwater that you look for ways to change your own behaviors to help prevent stormwater pollution. You can make a difference.
By: Jacob Buchanan