Urbanization that takes place in any growing city can increase the amount of runoff during heavy rains and reduce downstream water quality. Minimizing these impacts requires careful water management.
The EPA now considers stormwater pollution to be one of the most significant sources of contamination in our nation’s waters. Stormwater from developed areas erodes stream banks and smothers streambeds with sediment. Accumulated chemicals and bacteria flush off the land and into streams. Poor stormwater management can destry stream life, pollute drinking water, increase flooding and damage property.
Homeowners and business owners can play a key role in cleaning up our polluted waterways through behavioral changes such as:
Rain Gardens | Rain Barrels | Washing Your Car Right | Pet Waste | Erosion and Sedimentation Control | Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste Collection | Additional Stormwater Management Resources
What is stormwater? Stormwater is the runoff from rainfall and snow melt. In undeveloped areas such as grasslands and forests, much of the rainfall and snow melt soaks into the ground. Vegetation helps to slow runoff. In urban areas, buildings and other impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, do not allow water to soak into the ground, resulting in both increased amounts of runoff and faster flow. Along the way, runoff can pick up pollutants such as fertilizers and pesticides from yards, motor oil from leaking cars, pet waste, and dirt from construction sites. This can cause downstream waterways to become polluted.
Did you know? The City’s stormwater drainage system is separate from the sanitary sewer system (indoor sinks, toilets, etc.). The sanitary sewer system drains to a wastewater treatment plant while the stormwater system drains to area streams, rivers and lakes.
What does the storm water drainage system consist of? A variety of structures and land forms, both natural and artificial, are considered to be part of the storm water drainage system. These include street gutters, storm drains, pipes, grass and concrete channels, earth berms, ditches, box culverts, streams, detention basins, and even sinkholes. All of these are part of the course which storm water runoff travels on its way out of urban areas and into nearby streams, rivers and lakes.
Why is Stormwater Management important? Good storm water management benefits citizens and the community by reducing potential flood hazards and protecting area waterways. Flood control and water quality best management practices are required on new developments. The City’s storm water management program also includes construction of storm water improvement projects to address flooding and enhance water quality as well as public education, investigation of pollution, and other activities.
Storm Drains Are For Rain
Storm drains are the metal grates that are found on streets, often at corners and on the sides of curbs and gutters. The purpose of the storm drain is to help prevent flooding by diverting rainwater and melted snow off of the streets and other paved surfaces and into a natural body of water. Although storm drains fulfill an important purpose, they can harm water quality. The rainwater that is directed into a lake or stream by the storm drains is not treated. The rainwater can pick-up substances along the way such as lawn chemicals, oil, other household chemicals like paint, and soap and wash it directly into the stream. This runoff can pollute our waterways, harm wildlife and degrade water quality. However, there are steps that you can take to prevent pollutants from running into lakes and streams.
• Use lawn chemicals safely. Always follow label instructions and never apply before rain or watering the lawn unless directed.
• Recycle used oil. Never place used motor oil in the trash or pour it down storm drains. Dispose of used oil at a used oil collection facility.
• Clean driveways, sidewalks or paved areas around your home. Remove debris or residue that could end up in a storm drain.
• Wash your car the right way. Either wash your car at a car wash that filters the wastewater, or wash it in a grassy area. Avoid washing the car in the driveway where the soap can easily run in the street.
• Never dispose of trash or chemicals directly in the storm drain.
For more information about water quality issues, please contact the Public Works Department by calling 816-630-0755. To learn more about water quality, please visit the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) website.
Stormwater Pollution Prevention
To report spills, dumping or draining of pollutants to the street, storm drain, drainageway, or waterway, call the City of Excelsior Springs Public Works Department at 816-630-0755. For spill emergencies after normal business hours, please contact the Excelsior Springs Fire Department at 816-630-3000.
What to watch for:
• Dumping of motor oil, chemicals, trash, or yardwaste
• Commercially generated wash waters (i.e. washing of vehicles, equipment, tools, structures, or from services such as carpet cleaning)
• Improper outdoor storage of chemicals and other materials that can pollute the ground or strom water runoff
• Dirt from construction sites, or other erosion problems
• Drainageways or waterways with an unusual appearance or odor
What is a Watershed?
Everyone lives in a watershed. A watershed is the land area that drains water to a particular stream, river or lake. It is a land feature that can be identified by tracing a line along the highest elevations between two areas on a map, often a ridge.
How do I impact my watershed?
Because we all live in a watershed, we play a very important role in protecting that environment. The stormwater that runs through our property can greatly effect the nearby stream, as well as a far off body of water that stream feeds into. For example, in Excelsior Springs, the streams in our area feed into the Missouri River, which feeds into the Mississippi River and then into the Gulf of Mexico. There is currently a “dead zone” over 7,700 square miles where the Gulf and the Mississippi meet. This area cannot support aquatic life because of the pollution coming from upstream.
Choices we make around our house can have an impact on our local streams. Some areas to consider include:
• lawn care and gardening
• household hazardous waste disposal
• household cleaning products
• storm drains and gutters
Together, we can make smart choices and preserve our streams and natural resources for future generations.