Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground.
Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants and flow into a storm sewer system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water. (Source: "After the Storm" US EPA)
Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, aquatic life, animals, and people.
Sediment can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment also can destroy aquatic habitats. Sediment is the #1 cause of stream impairment in the State of Tennessee.
Excess Nutrients can cause algae blooms. When algae die they settle to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can't exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels.
Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often making beach closures necessary.
Debris plastic bags, six pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts washed into water bodies can choke, suffocate, or injure aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds. Debris can also be hazardous to humans during the recreational use of streams and other water bodies.
Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick from eating diseased fish or ingesting polluted water.
Polluted storm water often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.