Water pollution degrades surface waters making them unsafe for drinking, fishing, swimming, and other activities. As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters. Since its introduction in 1972, the NPDES permit program is responsible for significant improvements to our Nation's water quality.
Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater from naturally soaking into the ground.
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 sewer system is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing, and providing drinking water. Polluted runoff is the nation's greatest threat to clean water.
What are the effects of pollution?
Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals and people. Sediment can cloud the water and make it difficult or impossible for aquatic plants to grow. Sediment can also destroy aquatic habitats. Excess nutrients can cause algae 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 the water with low dissolved oxygen level. Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often making beach closures necessary.
Debris such as plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts that wash into waterbodies can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds.
Household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, 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.
Stormwater Pollution Solutions
Recycle or properly dispose of household products that contain chemicals, such as insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, and used motor oil and other auto fluids. Do not pour them onto the ground or into storm drains.
Create a Florida-friendly yard by using Florida native plants, that require little irrigation or fertilizer, are low maintenance and attract wildlife.
Permeable Pavement - Traditional concrete and asphalt don't allow water to soak into the ground. Instead these surfaces rely on storm drains to divert unwanted water. Permeable pavement systems allow rain to soak through, decreasing stormwater runoff.
Rain Barrels - You can collect rainwater from rooftops in mosquito proof containers. The water can be used later on lawn or garden areas.
Rain Gardens and Grassy Swales - Specifically designed areas planted with native plants can provide natural places for rainwater to collect and soak into the ground. Rain from rooftop or paved areas can be diverted into these areas rather than into storm drains.
Vegetated Filter Strips - Filter strips are areas of native grass or plants created along roadways or streams. They trap the pollutants stormwater picks up as it flows across driveways and streets.
On November 19, 2013, the Temple Terrace City Council approved an ordinance limiting the use of fertilizer. This new law was enacted to ensure the water quality of the City's aquifers, springs, and the Hillsborough River, which is critical to our environment, economy, and recreation. Use organic mulch or safer pest control methods whenever possible. Additionally, don't overwater your lawn; consider using a soaker hose instead of a sprinkler.
Compost or mulch yard waste. Cover piles of dirt or mulch being used in landscaping projects. Yard clippings and leaves can wash into storm drains and contribute nutrients and organic matter to streams.
Pet waste can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients in local waters. When walking your pet, remember to pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing pet waste is the best disposal method. Leaving pet waste on the ground increases public health risks by allowing harmful bacteria and nutrients to wash into the storm drain and eventually into local waterbodies.
Washing your car and degreasing auto parts at home can send detergents and other contaminants through the storm sewer system. Dumping automotive fluids into storm drains has the same result as dumping the materials directly into a waterbody.
Swimming Pool and Spa
Drain your swimming pool only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels. Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa onto the grass or other impervious surfaces. Properly store pool and spa chemicals to prevent leaks and spills, preferably in a covered area to avoid exposure to storm water.
Septic System Use and Maintenance
Have your septic system inspected by a professional at least every 3 years, and have the septic tank pumped as necessary (usually every 3 to 5 years).
Care for the septic system drainfield by not driving or parking vehicles on it. Plant only grass over and near the drainfield to avoid damage from roots.
Flush responsibly. Flushing household chemicals like paint, pesticides, oil, and antifreeze can destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system. Other items, such as diapers, paper towels and cat litter, can clog the septic system and potentially damage components.
For more information regarding stormwater, please visit the following websites:
Talking About Personal Pollution - TAPPWATER
Hazardous Waste Info – Batteries
Environmental Protection Agency's Hazardous Waste for Kids web page
Southwest Florida Water Management District Education web page
Environmental Protection Association NPDES website