Apr 28, 2005

State Agency Creates Stormwater Runoff Website

North Carolina residents, local governments and businesses have a new source for information about polluted stormwater runoff, the No. 1 source of water pollution in North Carolina.
Stormwater is rainwater or snowmelt that, instead of seeping into the earth, runs off via gutters, storm drains and ditches into creeks, streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean. Pollutants such as excess fertilizer, oil, eroded dirt, pet waste, soap, pesticides and other chemicals are picked up by the runoff and carried untreated to local water bodies. The primary source of these pollutants is people.
The website, www.ncstormwater.org, features educational material ranging from novice to expert, children’s activities, research, news, events and a toolkit of outreach resources for local governments.
"Educating state residents about the role they play in creating stormwater pollution is vital to improving our state’s water quality," said Bill Ross, secretary of the N. C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. "I firmly believe that once people are aware of the steps they can take to improve water quality, they will change their behaviors."
In North Carolina, 364,732 acres of shellfish beds have been closed due to bacterial problems made worse by polluted stormwater. It has also caused or contributed to swimming advisories, fishing advisories and beach closings.
The quality of stormwater runoff is one half of the stormwater picture. The quantity of stormwater runoff poses its own problems.
Increased development brings more streets, parking lots, roofs and other surfaces that shed water instead of absorbing it. One inch of rain falling on a one-acre parking lot produces 16 times more runoff than the same inch of rain falling on a one-acre meadow.
Localized urban flooding, erosion and scouring of streambeds are some impacts caused by increased stormwater runoff quantity.
North Carolina, which is implementing Phase II of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, has 132 communities that fall under federal requirements designed to address polluted stormwater runoff. The new website assists those communities mandated to conduct public outreach and education on the topic.
"We encourage communities to link to this website," stated Chrystal Bartlett, the state’s stormwater awareness and outreach coordinator. "Communities will always be the experts on their own areas, but DENR tried to design the site so there was something of value for everyone — residents, local governments and businesses."