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California Storms – Runoff Pollution & What You Can Do

Did you know eighty percent of pollution to marine life comes from land? Pollutants such as chemicals, paint, and oil make their way into rivers and steams, and eventually into the oceans. These pollutants can cause significant damage to aquatic environments and their ability to function properly. However, marine life is not the only victim to this pollution, humans suffer too.

What Is Runoff?

Runoff occurs when there is more water than the land can absorb. Runoff comes from precipitation that does not get absorbed into the ground and flows across land, sometimes through storm drains, and into our waterways.

Runoff helps replenish the ground’s natural supplies, which are often used for drinking water. The water also helps recharge surface water sources such as streams, lakes, and rivers, which is significant to aquatic ecosystems. Runoff is also an important factor in the Earth’s landscape, as it can be responsible for erosion.

Understanding Runoff Pollution: Causes and Sources

Runoff Pollution is caused by a variety of factors that contribute to the contamination of surface water and groundwater.

As urbanization happens and cities continue to grow, so does the presence of pavement and buildings. The more roadways, sidewalks, homes, and buildings that are built, the less bare ground available for water to be absorbed. Water runs off impervious surfaces like pavement, collecting pollutants like chemicals and litter until it finds itself in a nearby waterway.

The use of pesticides, fertilizers, and manure for farming and landscaping contributes to runoff pollution as they are washed into waterways. Pesticides and fertilizers can be detrimental to aquatic ecosystems.

Industrial sites that produce chemicals, metals, and other pollutants can also contribute to runoff pollution if they find their way into waterways.

Runoff pollution can occur in nature through natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Natural disasters often wash debris and sediment into waterways.

How Does Runoff Pollution Impact California Residents?

  • Runoff Pollution can greatly impact our homes, communities, and environment. It is important to understand their role in our world and how their maintenance can affect our everyday lives.
  • Water Quality & Supply: California relies heavily on its surface water and groundwater supplies to support its population and agriculture. Once these water sources are compromised with runoff pollution, it can make them unsafe for human consumption and reduce the water supply.
  • Agriculture: As a multi-billion-dollar agricultural producer, California depends on clean water for productivity. Polluted runoff can damage crops and harm livestock, which greatly impacts the outputs and economy.
  • Public Health Issues: Waterborne diseases, bacteria, and toxic algae can be dangerous to human health causing infections, respiratory issues, and gastrointestinal illness.
  • Environmental Degradation: Polluted runoff can destroy aquatic habitats causing biodiversity loss on which we rely for clean water, air, and climate regulation.
  • Economic Impacts: As our waterways suffer from runoff pollution, recreational industries may suffer as waterways are unable to host activities. Pollution can affect property values and increase the costs associated with water treatment.
  • Quality of Life: Runoff Pollution can limit our ability to enjoy outdoor activities and contribute to the overall decline in the health of our communities.

What Can I Do To Prevent Runoff Pollution?

A significant amount of runoff pollution is caused by everyday human activities. There are several simple ways to prevent runoff from becoming polluted.

  • Properly dispose of household hazardous waste such as chemicals, paint, and motor oil.
  • Dispose of pet waste, which can contain harmful bacteria.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them down.
  • Water your lawn by hand rather than using sprinklers to avoid overwatering and runoff.
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash when possible or wash on an unpaved surface to allow for water to be absorbed into the ground.
  • Keep yard clippings out of the street.
  • Plant native vegetation to help absorb and filter rainwater.
  • Direct downspouts away from pavement into a vegetative area.
  • Participate in community cleanups of local waterways to help remove litter and other pollutants.

Runoff pollution is a major concern for California residents, as it can impact public health, the environment, and the economy. By doing our part to prevent runoff pollution, we can help protect our water sources and ensure a cleaner and brighter future.