Stormwater definition and impact

What is stormwater?

Stormwater is rain that does not get absorbed into the ground, but flows into drainage systems that flow to creeks and rivers. Stormwater can also refer to any runoff that occurs from washing cars, powerwashing impervious surfaces, overwatering of lawns and gardens, or other sources.

Because stormwater receives no treatment or filtration, it carries pollutants into local creeks, sloughs and Humboldt Bay. In general, if a pollutant enters a storm drain, 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!

For additional information about stormwater and non-point pollution, check these links.

Humboldt Bay: A priceless resource

Humboldt Bay is the second largest estuary in California and the most ecologically diverse coastal enbayment on the U.S. west coast. It provides habitat for hundreds of thousands of migratory water birds. It is home to more than 100 fish species and 350 invertebrate animal species – many of which are commercially-valuable and dependent on the Bay for spawning and rearing habitat.

Run-off from the storm drains can have a significant impact on the water quality of the Bay. During the rainy season, large amounts of pollutants flow into the bay, depositing toxins and sediments. Because the Bay is large and shallow but has such a small mouth, it does not flush well. Thus, pollutants build up, potentially degrading its water quality. Polluted storm water run-off presents an ongoing hazard for the fish, birds, and other wildlife living in and around the Bay and for all who use and enjoy it.

Stormdrains are separate from our household sewer systems. On a rainy day, 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.

What you can do

You can protect Humboldt Bay with a few easy precautions. Click the links below to learn more.

Call the Stormwater Hotline to report pollution

 Residential Stormwater Pollution Prevention

Business Stormwater Pollution Prevention

Low Impact Development