Runoff or 'storm drain pollution' is one of the leading causes of water
pollution in this country. Urban areas contain up to 90 percent hard
surfaces such as rooftops and pavement where water collects and quickly
runs off. Urban Runoff is difficult to prevent because it is nonpoint
pollution. That is, instead of originating from a single-point source,
such as a factory or sewage treatment plant, the sources of urban runoff
are spread throughout an urban area. Such sources include yards, sidewalks,
streets, construction sites and parking lots. Any deposits of oil, grease,
pesticides, herbicides, soil, pet droppings, etc. in these areas are
flushed by rainwater and other means down the storm drains and directly
into a river or bay.
water flowing through storm drains is untreated and therefore carries
pollutants into local waterways. This problem becomes worse with population
growth and urbanization because such activities alter natural water
volumes are increased in urban areas due to the increase in impervious
surfaces, such as streets and parking lots. Under such conditions the
discharge rate can easily double or triple, causing increased chances
for flooding. The pollution content of rain water runoff is greatest
during the first minutes of a storm as all standing deposits are washed
away. This "first flush" is responsible
for the hazardous driving conditions in the first few minutes of a rainfall
and can also cause stress for aquatic organisms. High bacterial loads
in urban runoff can also lead to beach closures, reducing recreational
urban runoff is nonpoint pollution, work to prevent it must be far-reaching,
covering many different aspects. To accomplish this goal, the Water
Quality Protection Program for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
has worked with the cities and counties to develop ways to address urban
runoff on many fronts. This also requires the concerted efforts of individuals
to ensure they know what they can do to
minimize their own impacts. These efforts were the subject of an action
plan for controlling nonpoint source runoff pollution. The WQPP document "Action Plan I: Implementing Solutions to Urban Runoff" includes seven
strategies, each having a number of activities that, when completed,
will result in a coordinated program.
of Urban Runoff Strategies in Action Plan I:
- Initiate a collaborative effort among municipal, county and state staff to develop and implement regional stormwater management programs.
- Develop a comprehensive regional education and outreach program for the public, businesses and schools focused on urban runoff, water quality and watershed issues.
- Design a voluntary technical training program for public works and planning staff, construction companies, etc.
- Map and inspect storm drains and outfalls to identify problem areas.
- Demonstrate and promote the feasibility of catchment basins and vegetated buffer areas in reducing storm water pollution.
- Develop a sedimentation and erosion source control program for the Sanctuary region.
- Evaluate impacts of new development on urban runoff through modification of the California Environmental Quality Act checklist.
Being Done Now
Work to carry out these strategies is being carried out by staff from various agencies. Highlights include:
- Development and distribution of a Model Urban Runoff Program (MURP) that small cities can adopt for management of urban runoff, in collaboration with the California Coastal Commission, and Cities of Santa Cruz and Monterey.
- Collaborative implemtation of the Model Urban Runoff Proram with the cities of Monterey, Watsonville, Pacific Grove and others.
- Support of ongoing monitoring by citizen's groups in watersheds that drain to the Sanctuary.
- Development of a California Environmental Quality Act checklist to make planning efforts more uniform among cities.
- A study to test the utility of oil and sediment/water separators for treating runoff from parking lots.
- Development and distribution of educational materials for regional use.
- Technical training workshops for municipal staff.