The Effects of Pollution
Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on the environment, including plants, fish, animals and people. Some common pollutants and contaminants found in stormwater include the following:
Sediments are often from poorly maintained construction sites and include dirt and soil. Sediment can cloud the water and block light, thus affecting the environment underwater. Think of how different things would be in our lives if we did not have the sun. For example, it would be impossible for many plants to grow without the sun. The same is true in aquatic environments. Aquatic plants also need light to grow and provide food for birds and fish. Sediment also can destroy aquatic habitats by reducing the volume depth of water and altering the pH and chemical balance of the water.
Excess nutrients are from materials like fertilizers, yard clippings, pet wastes, and food litter. Excess nutrients can cause algae blooms. After the bloom, the algae dies off and sinks to the bottom of the water body. Algae then 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.
Bacteria and other pathogens come from sanitary sewer overflows, pet waste, and other inappropriately dumped infectious material. Bacteria and pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often making beach closures necessary. Additionally, they can cause illness in birds and fish which can in turn affect people who come into contact with the wildlife.
Debris such as plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and cigarette butts when washed into playa lakes can choke, suffocate, or disable aquatic life like ducks, fish, turtles, and birds. Not to mention it creates unsightly parks and recreation areas. No one wants their children to play next to a dirty, trash-filled playa lake!
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 from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water.
Polluted stormwater often affects drinking water sources. This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs. Water is a valuable resource in West Texas that we must protect. Do your part by helping to prevent pollution of stormwater runoff.