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Stormwater Facts

What it is ….

Stormwater is water from precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement due to rain or snowmelt (or also called stormwater runoff). The water may seep into the ground, flow in ditches or streams, or enter the storm drain system. The storm drains are what you see at street corners or at low points on the sides of your streets. The storm drains then lead to a discharge point such an open channel or directly into one of the natural streams and creeks within Dougherty County.

The natural creeks have a small amount of baseflow that is caused by groundwater recharge and high water tables; the baseflow is relatively clean.

When it rains, the baseflow is supplemented by stormwater runoff from parking lots and city streets. The baseflow is relatively clean groundwater that flows at a low velocity. Stormwater runoff tends to pickup garbage, debris, sediment, chemicals, automotive fluids and other pollutants; stormwater runoff is relatively dirty and will harm the fish and other wildlife living in the natural creeks.

Storm drains contain runoff that can not be treated by the prior to it's entering our natural creeks and streams. Sanitary sewers, however, convey wastewater from houses, businesses and industries to one of the city wastewater treatment plants. Storm drains are a completely different system than the sanitary sewers. Storm drains, therefore, usually travel anywhere from a few hundred feet up to several miles in underground pipes before being discharged.

Why it is important ....

Stormwater runoff is a major problem when it picks up garbage, debris, sediment, chemicals, automotive fluids, fertilizers, leaves and other pollutants from parking lots, yards, city streets, shopping malls, house roofs, etc. This type of pollution is called nonpoint source (NPS) pollution and is more of a problem than direct discharges from commercial industries and plants, which have NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The City of Albany and Dougherty County is required by the state and federal government to have a municipal NPDES permit for all waters that discharge from the city/county storm drain system to the natural creeks. The municipal NPDES permit requires that the city/county provide information and education programs, monitoring, stormwater inspections, stormwater policies, etc. The result of unclean stormwater runoff discharges is the loss of fish and aquatic wildlife from the out creeks, signs that say no fishing or no swimming.

How to Protect Stormwater Quality ....

The best way to protect stormwater runoff quality is to avoid polluting in the first place.

•Don’t dump hazardous substances such as used oil, household chemicals, yard fertilizer, or other wastes onto pavement or into storm drains.
•Practice street sweeping, picking up litter, and disposing of leaves and yard waste correctly.
•Prevent excess runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides by using them properly and efficiently.
•Participate in local garbage and debris pickup days, and recycle household hazardouswaste materials to prevent storm drain contamination.
•Encourage active citizen participation in stormwater protection and public group education on stormwater quality.
•Prevent sewage overflows to the creeks by diverting gutter drains away from the sanitary sewer system.

Common household contributions to stormwater pollution:

•Vehicle drips and leaks (oil, grease, gasoline, antifreeze, brake fluid) – particularly on paved areas.
•Overuse of lawn fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
•Pet wastes and food wastes – particularly on paved areas – allows harmful bacteria and viruses into natural creeks.
•Incorrect disposal of paints, solvents, cleaning fluids and other chemical agents.

How can I get involved?

There are many opportunities to become involved with stormwater cleanup efforts. These programs are coordinated by Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful.

Help protect your water!

If you see illegal dumping into storm drains or into creeks, call 439-3928 immediately!

Additional Facts:

•A sewer system and a storm drain system are not the same. These two systems are completely different. The water that goes down a sink or toilet in you home or business flows to a wastewater treatment plant where it is treated and filtered. Water that flows down driveways and streets and into a gutter goes into a storm drain which flows directly to a lake, river or the ocean. This water may pick up pollutants along the way which are never treated.
•Less than 1% of the water on the earth can actually be used by human beings.
•Storm drains do not remove pollutants and were designed for the specific purpose of draining water from sidewalks and streets.
•Anything you place in storm drains goes directly into a lake or stream.
•One of the most common pollutants found in storm drains and creeks is detergent from the washing of cars.
•It is illegal to dump wastewater or water containing soaps, cleaning, products, or grease and oil into streets or storm drains.
•The improper use of lawn fertilizers can be a main source of water pollution.
•Landscaping can help reduce storm water runoff.
•Trees and shrubs require less fertilizer than other plants, helping to further reduce the chance of pollution.
•Most water pollution is preventable.
•In urban areas clearing and building are among the leading causes of storm water pollution. Clearing removes protective vegetation making soil vulnerable to erosion. As buildings go up, storm water flowing over exposed soil carries sediment into storm drains, streams and lakes. Pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals can become pollutants when carried off by storm water. Vegetated areas cause little storm water runoff. When those areas are replaced by impervious surfaces (buildings, roads, parking lots) storm water runoff is increased, and can cause streams to flood more in the winter and to dry out more in the summer. Untreated storm water flowing over paved and other impervious surfaces, carries toxic metals, organic compounds, pathogens and other pollutants that end up in rivers, streams, lakes, and can harm people and fish. Untreated storm water discharging to the ground may contaminate aquifers that are used for drinking water.

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