When rain falls on roads, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks, it can push harmful pollutants like fertilizer, pet waste, chemical contaminants and litter into the nearest waterway. Anything that enters a storm sewer system will find its way, untreated, into water bodies (the Indian River Lagoon, wetlands, streams or coastal waters) we use for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water.
Stormwater runoff can cause a number of environmental problems:
- Fast-moving stormwater runoff can erode stream banks, damaging hundreds of miles of aquatic habitat.
- Stormwater runoff can push excess nutrients from fertilizers, pet waste and other sources into rivers and streams. Nutrients can fuel the growth of algae blooms that create low-oxygen dead zones that suffocate marine life.
- Stormwater runoff can push excess sediment into rivers and streams. Sediment can block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and suffocate shellfish.
- Stormwater runoff can push pesticides, leaking fuel or motor oil and other chemical contaminants into rivers and streams. Chemical contaminants can harm the health of humans and wildlife.
Stormwater runoff can also lead to flooding in urban and suburban areas. Forests, wetlands and other vegetated areas can trap water and pollutants, slowing the flow of stormwater runoff. But when urban and suburban development increases, builders often remove these natural buffers to make room for the impervious surfaces that encourage stormwater to flow freely into local waterways.