Rainfall becomes stormwater once it begins to flow as runoff. The quality and quantity of runoff can vary significantly based upon characteristics of the land traversed, the intensity and duration of the storm, and even the initial quality of the rainfall.

Stormwater that runs across the impervious surfaces (such as driveways, rooftops, sidewalks, and parking lots) will accumulate destructive energy and a range of trash pollutants. These drains carry the water as well as other toxic chemicals directly to lakes and streams.

It is important to understand that stormwater runoff is a natural occurrence, but the impact of polluted stormwater runoff is a manmade problem. The solution to this problem is for individuals and companies to become informed and active in applying preventative measures known as Best Management Practices to protect the quality of the stormwater that ultimately flows into lakes, rivers and streams.

Individuals who are genuinely concerned about the quality of their water can become active environmentalists. One way to improve water quality is not to pour oils, grease and chemicals onto pavements or into storm drains. These substances pollute water that is not treated before it is released into lakes, rivers and streams. Many auto parts stores will accept used motor oil and oil filters for recycling.

For items like electronics, aluminum cans, bottles, cardboard, paper, and plastic, individuals should contact Jefferson County Recycling Department.

Another good practice is to scoop up behind your dog every time you go for a walk. You might think of picking up after your dog as an act of decency, but there are actually good reasons why you should be cleaning up your dog’s poop.

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies dog poop as a pollutant. The nitrogen and phosphorus in dog poop trigger excessive algae and weed growth. Dog poop has a high nitrogen content which can burn your green grass and leave brown spots for your neighbors.

The main point to understand is that everyone lives downstream. Urban storm water pollution affects the quality of water we drink, fish in, swim in, etc. If we do not protect our water quality now, then the generations ahead will have to bear the burden of our negligence and clean up our mess for years to come.

Do your part and keep our water clean and healthy for people to drink and use for recreation. This leads to healthier people and a healthier environment.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

Kevin Harris is the urban stormwater educator with the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service. Details: 870-534-1033 or follow the Jefferson County stormwater program on Facebook or Instagram.