Why should I be concerned about storm water runoff?

Water is essential for life and plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems. Water pollution has a serious impact on all living creatures, and can negatively affect the use of water for drinking, household needs, recreation, fishing, transportation and commerce. Our bodies are composed of more than 75% water and we can’t live more than three days without it! Simply stated, “Water is Life”.

“According to waterislife.com, 1.8 Billion global citizens lack access to safe drinking water while 2.5 Billion lack access to proper sanitation. According to the organization, 1 in 5 die everyday from water-related illness and 90% of those deaths are in children under 5.”

Water is considered the “universal solvent” and easily carries pollutants with it wherever it flows. Water pollution is any contamination of water with chemicals or other foreign substances that are detrimental to human, plant, or animal health. These pollutants include soil from construction sites, fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural and residential runoff; sewage and food processing waste; lead, mercury, and other heavy metals; chemical wastes from industrial discharges; and chemical contamination from hazardous waste sites. Worldwide, nearly 2 billion people drink contaminated water that could be harmful to their health.

A water sample is unsafe, present or total coliform positive if coliform bacteria are found in the sample. Generally coliforms are bacteria that are not harmful and are naturally present in the environment. They are used as an indicator that other, potentially harmful, fecal bacteria (indicated by the E. coli species) could be present. If any routine or repeat sample is total coliform positive, the system (i.e., the lab) must further analyze that sample to determine if E. coli are present. The presence of coliform bacteria in tap water suggests that there could be a problem with existing equipment or treatment systems, contamination of the source water or a breach in the distribution system that could introduce E. coli contamination. (USEPA)

We use fertilizers to make our yards green and our flowers grow and bloom. But too much fertilizer (nitrogen and phosphorus) in our water supply causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources and habitats, and decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Large growths of algae are called algal blooms and they can severely reduce or eliminate oxygen in the water, leading to illnesses in aquatic life and the death of large numbers of fish. Some algal blooms are harmful to humans because they produce elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people sick if they come into contact with polluted water, consume tainted fish or shellfish, or drink contaminated water. Always use fertilizers sparingly and follow application recommendations carefully. When it comes to fertilizer application rates, more is not necessarily better, especially if you are concerned about water quality.

For more information, see the EPA web site.