Many people think that most water pollution comes from industries that dump chemicals into the water. The truth is our water can be harmed by things that we do everyday. Almost two-thirds of water pollution in North Carolina is caused by polluted runoff. When it rains, water washes over lawns, sidewalks, and streets. Besides litter, this water picks up chemicals found in lawn fertilizers, bacteria found in pet waste, and oil from cars. This polluted water then enters roadside ditches and the storm drains found in our streets. Large pipes under the ground connect the storm drains to the closest lake or stream — even the ones you don’t see everyday!
Not only do we rely on water for drinking, we also need clean water to grow crops, provide wildlife habitat, and for recreation like swimming and fishing. A healthy water supply contributes to our overall quality of life.
This website is designed to raise awareness about the impacts of stormwater runoff on waterbodies and communicate steps the public can take to reduce pollutants in runoff. Please explore this website and links to learn more about what you can do to keep our waters healthy!
In 1972, The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program was established under authority of the federal Clean Water Act and then delegated to the Division of Water Quality for implementation in North Carolina. Phase I of the NPDES stormwater program was established in 1990, and it focused on site and operations planning to reduce pollutant sources. Phase I covered industrial activities in 10 categories; construction activities that disturbed five or more acres; and municipalities with populations of 100,000 or more that owned or operated a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) (North Carolina had six). Phase II of the program expanded permit requirements to construction disturbing an acre or more and to smaller communities (< 100,000 pop.) and public entities that own or operate an MS4.
NPDES Phase II Stormwater rules affect a large number of local governments in our LDD region, which are required to obtain permits. Unlike most governments in other regions throughout NC, a Phase I community is not available as a resource to assist with implementation of the new rules in our area. A Stormwater Working Group (SWWG) was formed in 2006 and continues to assist local governments, through sharing resources, providing a forum to assure uniform implementation of program provisions when possible.
What You Can Do
There is good news. There are a lot of simple actions we can take to protect our water resources. We we all live up hill of a lake or stream (or it can be said in a watershed). It’s true -- we might not be able to see it from our window, but it’s there. Whether it is a small stream or ditch or even the storm drain in the street. All of these lead to a river or lake. So it’s important to remember that what we do at home affects our rivers and lakes!
Here are some simple steps you can take to help keep our water clean. Give them a try. A few simple changes can make a big difference! Plus, in some cases, you’ll save time and money in the process.
Help keep pollution out of storm drains - Never Dump Anything in a Storm Drain! Many North Carolinians think stormwater is treated before it goes back into our watersheds. Unfortunately, this is not true. It's our job as knowledgeable citizens to inform citizens of the negative impact hazardous materials dumped into storm drains can have on our water quality.
Practice good outdoor home care - Prevent Fertilizer Pollution. If you fertilize the lawn just before the rain, rain water washes the fertilizer along the curb, into the storm drain and directly into our streams, rivers and lakes. Too much fertilizer causes algae to grow, which uses up oxygen that fish need to survive. Read on to find out what you can do to prevent fertilizer from messing up our waters.
Pesticides and Herbicides. When pesticides and herbicides are used incorrectly, excess chemicals and nutrients are picked up by stormwater and carried through stormdrain into our waterways. The pesticides and herbicides meant to kill pests and weeds has the unintended effect of killing harmless aquatic organisms and disrupting their fragile ecosystem.
Improperly maintain septic systems can contaminate our water supply, posing a dangerous threat to human health. It's important to understand your septic system and the impact it can have on the environment.
Carefully store and dispose of household cleaners, chemicals, and oil - The average household purchase at about 20 gallons of materials that are considered household hazardous wastes. If these materials are not properly disposed of, toxic substances can end up in our waterways.
Clean up after yourself and your pet - Trash and debris often end up in streams and lakes. Not only is this an eyesore, but ducks, fish, turtles, and birds can choke, suffocate, or be permanently disabled by trash and debris.
Animal waste is quickly becoming a major problem in our streams. Not only does waste contain bacteria that can be dangerous to our health, it contributes to already high nutrient levels in our water, encouraging the growth of algae and other dangerous organisms.
Practice good car care - Think of all the cars on the road every day. If your car is not maintained properly, you may be leaking motor oil or antifreeze onto the road. Because roads are impermeable surfaces, these toxic substances are going to be picked up by stormwater and transported by stormdrain into the nearest waterbody. Used motor oil from one vehicle could easily contaminate up to 8 football fields of surface water.
Choose earth friendly landscaping - Low Impact Development. LID is exactly what it sounds like - development that minimizes its impact on the environment. By working with the landscape, developers minimize the amount of pollution that leaves the site. Rain gardens and rain barrels or cisterns are popular forms of LID.
Build a Buffer. Buffers are one of the most effective barriers to runoff pollution. Buffers consist of various native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Not only do buffers help keep dirt in its place, they also slow the flow of water, allowing more time for water to be absorbed into the ground.