Urban Runoff and Stormwater Management
Protect storm drains! Other than precipitation and clean water, no water or other materials should go into storm drains.
Recycle or properly dispose of oil, paint, antifreeze, and other materials.
Keep organic matter (leaves, grass) and pet waste out of storm drains.
Reduce or eliminate herbicide and pesticide use. Use non-toxic alternatives.
Plant native species or use erosion control to prevent sediment (dirt) from getting in local streams and rivers.
Stencil storm drains and learn more about how you can help!

Stormwater 101

The goal of this page is to provide an overview of selected key concepts of stormwater and provide information and resources to help us manage urban runoff.

What’s New?

See How Trees Tame Stormwater (link) or by clicking the picture below.

Stormwater:  The Basics Video.  Overview of stormwater from Clark County Washington.  Click Here to Watch.  Note:  Links to YouTube.

EPAs Low Impact Development “Barrier Buster” Factsheets Series

Videos – locally produced PSA, one from the Portland Area, and “Ducky” Ads from ThinkBlueMaine.org.

Oregon Rain Garden Guide (O.S.U. Extension)

Field Guide for Maintaining Rain Gardnes, Swales and Stormwater Planters (O.S.U. Extension)

Rain Gardens – How to design and construct a successful professional rain garden

Landscaping Brochure

Updated Links

Clear Choices Clean Water Link 

What is Stormwater Runoff?

Stormwater runoff is flow that is generated from rain or snow that falls on hard surfaces (e.g., roof tops, driveways, roads, and parking lots).  The flow (runoff) generated from these surfaces enters local streams, rivers, canals, and drainageways during and immediately following a storm event instead of soaking into the ground.  This causes a problem because the ground can no longer act as a sponge absorbing water or filter pollutants.  As a result, more water and dirtier water enters streams and rivers quicker resulting in flooding, erosion, and degraded water quality.  

Urbanization greatly increases the amount of runoff generated (pictured below).

Image courtesy of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

Why is it a Problem?

Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants and flow into a storm sewer system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that enters a storm drain is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing, and for providing drinking water (EPA 2003).  As a result, anything that enters storm drains in the Bear Creek Watershed can flow into Bear Creek to the Rogue River to the Pacific Ocean.  It’s all connected!

Impacts of Stormwater

Stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals, and people beyond flooding.

  • Sediment can cloud the water making it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment can also destroy aquatic habitats or cover (and smother) salmonid eggs.
  • Excess nutrients can cause algal blooms. When algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic organisms can’t exist in water with low dissolved oxygen levels. Low levels of dissolved oxygen are found in the Bear Creek Watershed at periods during the year, especially the summer.  Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
  • Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards.  Bear Creek and the Rogue River Basin are listed under the Clean Water Act through the TMDL program for bacteria concerns.
  • Debris-plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts washed into waterbodies can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life.
  • Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick or die from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
(Selected Text from EPA 2003)

How Stormwater is Managed

Local stormwater management is based on regulations from the Clean Water Act under the NPDES Phase II Program. Management programs are designed to meet the six minimum control measures listed below.  Many of the concepts incorporated are based on mimicing or reestablishing natural functions.

Six minimum control measures (click here for a link to fact sheets on EPA’s website):

  1. Public Education and Outreach
  2. Public Involvement and Participation
  3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
  4. Construction Site Runoff Control (Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control)
  5. Post Construction Runoff Control
  6. Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping

For information on what local communities are doing, click here.

Reference Materials, Videos, Brochures, and News Articles

Stormwater Links

Center for Watershed Protection

Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

City of Eugene Stormwater Management Page

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

EPA Stormwater Program

Regional Coalition for Clean Rivers and Streams

Clear Choices and Clean Water

Stream Smart