Residential Stormwater Pollution Prevention Practices

Even though you may live miles or blocks from local creeks and Humboldt Bay, you may be polluting creek and/or bay waters without knowing it. Before you discharge anything into the street, gutter, or down a stormdrain, stop and think!

Day after day, garbage, plastic, motor oil, sediment, and household/garden chemicals are discharged into our neighborhood street gutters. These pollutants are carried by rainwater, car washing, lawn watering and other runoff into the stormdrain system that empties into our local creeks and sloughs.

On a rainy day in Humboldt County, have you ever wondered what happens to...

  • Motor oil, transmission fluid, antifreeze and gasoline on your driveway, in parking lots, or on roads?
  • Cigarette butts and garbage in street gutters?
  • Fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn and garden?
  • Bare soil on a construction site, hillside or edges of sidewalks?

These are just some of the pollutants that mix with water and flow through the stormdrain system that runs beneath our streets.

Stormdrains are separate from our household sewer systems. Stormdrain waters flow directly into our local creeks, sloughs and Humboldt Bay without treatment of any kind. Stormwater at no time enters Arcata’s Wastewater Treatment Plant to even be screened for garbage debris. If it goes through a street stormdrain grate, then it goes directly to the nearest creek.

Before Arcata was commercially developed, rainwater soaked into the land or naturally flowed into streams and rivers. Now with impervious surfaces (asphalt, concrete, and buildings) rain water cannot be absorbed by the ground easily and is quickly channelized carrying all its pollutants into waterways as it is too costly for cities to conduct treatment. Once these pollutants reach waterways, they will never have the chance to get industrialized treatment to remove these chemicals. The best way to help with stormwater treatment is to make sure that these chemicals, garbage and sediments do not reach the stormwater system.

Did you know that simple household and workplace practices would help reduce stormwater pollution without any major changes in daily life? Things such as putting cigarette butts into garbage receptacles, picking up dog waste in parks, the Arcata Community Forest or the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, buying more organically based pesticides and fertilizers, adjusting sprinkler heads so as they don’t run on pavement, and minimizing power-washing and/or soap used when car washing at home. Small practices such as these when followed by multiple people can have a compounding effect in improving water quality not just locally but globally.

For many years, the City has been committed to improving the quality of urban runoff through the development of a proactive, comprehensive stormwater management program that recognizes Arcata's unique position in the Humboldt Bay watershed and the need to protect our important natural resources.

Watch videos on how to make your landscape more like a sponge.

The California Water Board's Storm Water Program has produced a series of how-to videos on getting rid of your lawn and saving water and cash by getting rid of your grass. Learn more about being a California water warrior here.

For more information on ways you can reduce or eliminate pollutant discharges to the stormwater drainage system in your home or workplace visit the following links: 

In your lawn and garden:

  • Use non-toxic alternatives whenever possible. Use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers carefully and sparingly in accordance with label instruction. Do not apply if rain is forecast. Dispose of unwanted leftovers through the household hazardous waste collection faciltiy at Humboldt Waste Management Authority.

  Household Hazardous Waste Facility

Open the First Saturday of Each Month

9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

1059 W. Hawthorne in Eureka

15 gallon limit by container size

$5 fee

For more information call (707) 441-2005

  • Composting: Use a broom rather than a hose to clean up lawn clippings and dirt. Deposit in a compost pile.  Compositng is easy!  Check out this brochure, Backyard Composting Made Easy, for tips. The City of Arcata has compost bins available, click to see a photo of the bin, to City of Arcata residents, upon presentation of a water bill/receipt or rental contract/receipt, for the low cost of $20.  Green waste can also be taken to the green waste facility.  Upon presentation of a current  Arcata Garbage bill and picture ID , City of Arcata residents can drop at no charge.  The limit is 48 one yard drops in a calendar year.

Compost Facility

Wes Green Landscaping

6360 West End Road, first left east of the railroad tracks

(707) 822-8035

Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., April through October only

Here are tips on ways to wash your car that will not compromise water quality, Residential Auto Cleaning Guidelines for Water Quality


Learn more about ways that you can reduce the stormwater running off of your site.  With these videos on rain gardens and reducing stormwater pollution.

The City of Elk Grove, in the Sacramento Valley, recently created a rain garden.  Learn about it in this 4 minute 38 second video, Rain Garden: Slowing Pollution At Its Source.

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 hestitate to contact the City of Arcata Environmental Services Department at (707) 822-8184 or

 only rain down the drain