Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one cause of water pollution in Nebraska. In most cases, stormwater either does not receive any treatment before it enters waterways or if it does receive treatment, it is inadequately treated.
As the saying goes, “we all live downstream,” and polluted water creates numerous issues and costs to the public and wildlife. Communities that use surface water for their drinking supply must pay much more to have the polluted water cleaned and treated. The well-being and fate of wildlife in creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes is also compromised because of polluted water. Dirt from erosion, also called sediment, covers up fish habitat, fertilizers can cause nitrogen build up and cause too much algae to grow which decreases oxygen levels, and soaps harm fish skin and gills when pollutants enter waterways.
The amount of stormwater that enters into storm inlets is also a problem. When stormwater falls on impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs, driveways and parking lots, it cannot seep into the ground as it normally would and instead creates runoff. To give you an idea of the difference an impervious surface makes, consider the difference between one inch of rain falling onto a meadow and a parking lot – the runoff from a parking lot is 16 times the amount of runoff from a meadow!
Consequently, developed areas can experience localized flooding because of the increased amount of runoff from impervious surfaces. This high volume of water also causes stream banks to erode and washes the sediment into the water ultimately affecting the quality of the water and the well-being of wildlife.