Stormwater runoff is rainwater that flows over the ground, sometimes with extreme force, picking up mud and other pollutants in its path and depositing it into surrounding waterways. Unlike water collected through sewage treatment facilities, stormwater runoff goes untreated directly into rivers and streams.
In addition to the dangers of pollutants in untreated rainwater, mud and clay runoff accumulates on stream bottoms and in wetlands from levels of a few inches to a few feet. This accumulation smothers plants and bottom dwellers, such as snails and mussels, on which larger fish and birds feed. The result can be the devastating loss of vital ecosystems.
According to the National Weather Service, Alabama receives one of the highest average annual rainfalls in the United States. Widely regarded as a top threat to water quality nationwide, stormwater is, therefore, a particular threat to Alabama’s waterways, especially in the upper Cahaba watershed. As growth and development continue to challenge waterway health and supply, as well as local habitat, many citizens remain largely unaware of the damaging effects of what is commonly accepted as progress.
Providing education for citizens, and especially engineers and contractors, about the dangers mud and pollution from development pose to Alabama’s waterways is vital. Once builders begin to understand how to protect the environment from pollution and that their onsite activities are being monitored by an educated public, they are more likely to decrease overall violations of the Clean Water Act.
The ultimate goal of stormwater management is to improve the water quality of the state’s rivers and streams, all of which eventually flow on to Mobile Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico.