Help to keep our local waterways clean!
Where does rainwater go when it hits the ground? If it falls on a vegetated surface such as your yard, a garden, or a forest, most of the water is absorbed by the soil or plants and is returned to the water cycle (see link below). If it falls on an impervious surface such as a road or a driveway, it runs off to local streams and waterways.
Stormwater can be defined as rainwater plus anything that it carries. In urban areas such as Salem, rainfall can transport a multitude of pollutants to our streams and waterways. Water that flows into storm drains on the streets, flows directly into our urban streams.
In general, poor water quality can be linked to either point source pollutants or nonpoint source pollutants. Understanding these terms is the first step in learning current regulations, conditions, and how your daily activities can impact water quality in our local streams.
Simply put, point source pollutants are those pollutants that can be traced back to the pipe or one single source. For example, polluted water discharged from a factory pipe into a local waterway would be a point source pollutant. Most people believe that poor water quality is primarily the result of point source pollutants.
Nonpoint source pollutants come from a variety of sources, not from a single pipe. Examples: (1) soil washed into a stream by rainwater; (2) oil and grease washed off a driveway and into the storm system; (3) an increase in water temperature due to a lack of riparian vegetation; and (4) animal waste carried to the stream through runoff. The largest source of water pollution in Oregon's waterways comes from nonpoint sources.
How much rainwater (stormwater) can be delivered to local waterways? One inch of rain falling on one acre of the earth’s surface is equal to about 27,154 gallons of water! Of course not all of that water ends up in local streams, but it's easy to see how much stormwater and pollutants can reach our waterways.
What can you do to help?
- Sweep gutters and driveways rather than using the hose to remove debris.
- Use the minimum amount of detergent (low phosphate is best) for washing your car. Wash car on grass or gravel, or take your car to a carwash that recycles their water.
- Clean up after your pets.
- Keep your car in good working order to avoid leaks and don't work on your car where oil or grease can wash into the gutter.
- Build paths and driveways out of pervious material such as gravel.
- Replant bare slopes and unvegetated areas with native species. You can learn about native species and about other ways you can help prevent stormwater pollution from our Clean Streams, Clear Choices program.