What is stormwater?

Stormwater is a term used to describe water generated from rain events that does not get absorbed into the ground, and flows into drainage systems, which flows to creeks and rivers. Stormwater can also refer to any runoff that occurs from washing cars, powerwashing impervious surfaces, overwatering of lawns and gardens as well as other sources. 

Stormwater carries pollutants into local creeks, sloughs and Humboldt Bay due to the fact that stormwater receives no treatment or filtration before it discharges into these waterways. In general, if a pollutant enters a stormdrain, it will discharge directly into the nearest creek or waterway with no further treatment before it enters Humboldt Bay and then the ocean.  Federal, state and local laws require that businesses and citizens put only rain down the drain!

One of the best ways to reduce stormwater is through Low Impact Development (LID).  For more information on Low Impact Development call the City of Arcata Environmental Services Department at (707) 822-8184 or

For a brief overview on Low Impact Development (LID) watch this 8 minute video, Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The California Regional Water Quality Control Board has an interesting 30 minute video, Slow The Flow - Make Your Landscape Act Like a Sponge, that describes what stormwater is, what it does to the environment and what you can do to reduce those impacts.  Take a few minutes to watch this video and learn how to reduce your stormwater impacts!


storm drain

Storm drains are meant to divert storm water from our streets and prevent flooding.  They lead straight to creeks and Humboldt Bay without filtration.  It is against the law to throw anything into the street, gutter or creek - like litter, leaves, cigarettes, pet waste, restaurant wash water or auto fluids like motor oil.  If these items are in the street or gutter, they will wash into a storm drain and pollute our creeks and Humboldt Bay.

So please, help keep our creeks and Humboldt Bay clean by not washing materials into streets and gutters.

Call the City at (707) 822-8184 if you see any large or hazardous item in the street or gutter, for on line reporting email


A toll free regional stormwater hotline operated by the Northcoast Stormwater Coalition can be called at 1 (877) 627-2001  to report active pollution or any other stormwater concerns. You may also call Arcata’s Environmental Services Department at (707) 822-8184.  For more information on the Northcoast Stormwater Coalition check out its website at Northcoast Stormwater Coalition. (Clicking this link directs you away from the City of Arcata website)

Have additional questions or need assistance with BMPS or reducing stormwater pollution, please do not hesitate to contact the City of Arcata Environmental Services Department at (707) 822-8184 or


For more information on what you can do at your home or business to reduce stormwater pollution, click either link below.

Business Stormwater Pollution Prevention

Residential Stormwater Pollution Prevention