Uncontrolled stormwater pollution affects the way a stream or other water body looks and smells, making it a less pleasant place to be or live near. Uncontrolled stormwater pollution affects the way a stream or other water body looks and smells, making it unpleasant to be near. This can impact the quality of life for everyone living in and around a community.
Trash and debris in the drainage system can lead to foul odors and may attract rats and other pests. If trash reaches the stream, it ruins the beauty for everyone.
Nobody likes to see water running the color of rust, but when sediment gets in streams, they no longer run clear. Large amounts of sediment can harm the quality of life and reduce opportunities for recreation due to infilling of creeks, ponds and lakes.
Increased nutrients, usually from fertilizers, may cause algae blooms, particularly on ponds and small lakes. These blooms cover the water surface with a thick green slime the consistency of pea soup. These algae blooms not only make the pond look bad, they choke out the other vegetation and aquatic life.
Streams polluted with oil have a reflective, unhealthy glow. Four quarts of oil can cause an eight-acre oil slick if spilled or dumped down a storm drain. This can lead to fish kills and other unsightly problems as well as create foul odors from the decaying of fish.
Reducing the amount of pollutants, household chemicals, and sediment can help maintain the quality of a stream. In return, a healthier stream will improve conditions and increase the quality of life.
Stormwater pollution can impact our surface waters which directly impacts the source of our drinking water.
Water is a staple in our daily lives. We use it for drinking, washing our clothes, showering, watering our lawns and more. In the Atlanta Region, approximately 500 million gallons are used every day. The majority of this water (98 percent) comes from surface water sources, the most important being the Chattahoochee River/Lake Lanier and the Etowah River/Lake Allatoona, which together provide more than 85 percent of the region's total water supply.
Even though the Atlanta Region averages about 50 inches of rainfall each year, we are located near the headwaters of our rivers and streams, making them relatively small. Thus, we depend heavily on stormwater runoff from rainfall to replenish our water supply. Because of urban development, this runoff, and therefore, this water supply is affected by stormwater pollution.
Local governments, public water systems, the states, and EPA work together towards the goal of ensuring that all public water supplies are safe. Water suppliers use a variety of treatment processes to remove contaminants from drinking water. New laws requiring increased monitoring for pollutants in drinking water will cost the nation's water suppliers more than $40 million a year, according to estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As pollution continues to impact drinking water supplies, there will be continued efforts to test and treat contaminants, leading to increasing prices for clean and safe drinking water.
Rivers, lakes and streams can be come contaminated by pollutants, which impacts the fish and other aquatic life living there.
Water pollution creates an unhealthy environment for habitat and wildlife that live in and around waterways. Some wildlife and aquatic life can survive or adapt to living in polluted conditions, while others will not be able to exist.
Some fish are very sensitive to any change in the stream environment. Urban development can alter their habitat by polluting water, changing water temperature, degrading instream and riparian habitat, and altering the natural flow of rivers and streams.
The erosion of sediment into rivers and streams can be detrimental to fish and other aquatic life that need gravel and rocks to spawn and rear their young (i.e. fish and frogs). Erosion caused by construction and other activities introduces fine sediments that clog the spaces between rocks and gravel in streams, bury the eggs laid in these spaces, and prevent flowing water and oxygen from reaching the eggs and newly hatched fish. Sediment can also fill in pools that are an important part of fish habitat. Fish use pools for rearing and spawning, as resting areas during migration, and as a refuge to avoid temperature and flow extremes.
Sediment and other debris clog fish gills, damage fish habitat, and block the light aquatic plants need to survive. Sediments become contaminated with pollutants that settle to the bottom of rivers, streams, and lakes, making them toxic to aquatic organisms. Sediments in water can damage gills and decrease visibility, which can hamper the fish’s ability to find food. Sediments also can carry and store toxic pollutants and nutrients that can poison habitat. When green waste decays in water, it uses up oxygen and takes vital oxygen away from plants, fish and other aquatic animals. Fish can die in waterways with lower dissolved oxygen levels because of the excessive use of fertilizers.
When oil enters waterways, it can clog gills that fish use to breathe. Many spills can cause the loss of habitat. Oil slicks cast a rainbow effect on waters. It only takes four quarts, or about one oil change, of used motor oil to foul one million gallons of water.
Grass clippings and leaf litter that get dumped along a stream bank, drainage ditch or storm drain add nutrients to the aquatic environment that can cause unwanted growth of algae and reduce the oxygen levels in the water. This can harm fish and other aquatic life. Fertilizers and phosphates can cause algae blooms (explosive growth of algae suspended in water). When these blooms occur, oxygen levels in the water are reduced. With the reduced oxygen level, aquatic life dies. Pesticides also can kill aquatic organisms directly and even accumulate in sediments and tissues of fish and other organisms.
Litter clogs waterways and causes toxicity as it breaks down. It affects the health of birds, fish, other animals and plants that live in the waterways. Litter and debris can suffocate fish, turtles, and other aquatic life.
Metals from vehicles can be toxic to aquatic life. Improper disposal of materials can result in pollutants, heavy metals and toxic materials entering waterways which can create public health and environmental risks.
The quality and quantity of water directly impacts the ability to maintain a safe and secure water supply for human consumption, the safety of fish and other foods harvested from affected waters, recreational uses of rivers and lakes, and the ecological balances and interactions within our ecosystem. The next time you see a polluter, remind them that everything they throw down the drain will go into a nearby waterway.
Polluted runoff can affect the rivers, lakes and stream where we like to swim, fish and play.
Stormwater pollution is a serious problem for wildlife dependent on our waterways and for the people who live near polluted rivers, lakes and streams. It can cause a decline in fish populations, disturb habitats and limit water recreation activities. Polluted stormwater poses a series of threats to the overall health of the ecosystem.
The Problem E. Coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria from human and animal waste can be detrimental to the environment. Swimming can be prohibited when E. Coli levels are high. E. Coli bacteria commonly found in the intestinal tract and feces of warm-blooded animals. There are other types of bacteria that are found and tested in waterways.
Devaluing of Water Resources
Our water resources are valuable in metro Atlanta in many ways including environmental, social and economic. If the water quality becomes degraded, our water resource will lose its value. Water quality is important not only to protect public health - water provides ecosystem habitats, is used for farming, fishing and mining, and contributes to recreation and tourism.