Managing Stormwater Pollution


Stormwater Pollution


Everyday activities can pollute stormwater. Have you ever done any of the following?


Washed cars in streets or driveways?

Soapy water is not absorbed by paved surfaces. It flows along the curb to the storm drain and into local creeks and San Francisco Bay. Even soaps labeled nontoxic or biodegradable are harmful to the environment.


Instead: Use a commercial car wash service that recycles water or, if you continue to wash your car at home, direct water onto a lawn or unpaved surface and minimize the amount of soap you use.  Find out how to receive a Watershed Watch discount card for car wash discounts.


Hosed off driveways and sidewalks?

Water used for hose-downs takes particles of motor oil, other automotive fluids, grime, trash, leaves, and other pollutants into the storm drain system.


Instead: Regularly sweep driveways, sidewalks, and curbside gutters. Clean oil and grease spots off the driveway by applying a dry absorbent such as kitty litter, corn meal or sawdust to the spot. Let it sit for several hours, then sweep into a plastic bag and place in the garage.


Emptied buckets of dirty cleaning water into the gutter?

Liquids poured into the gutter flow into the storm drain system. There is no treatment or creening of materials in the storm drain system. They flow directly into local creeks and San Francisco Bay.


Instead: Put dirty cleaning water into a sink or toilet where it will be "cleaned up" during the wastewater treatment process.


Left pet waste on the lawn?

Pet wastes can be washed into the storm drain system by rain or irrigation watering. Pet waste adds hazardous bacteria and organic compounds that can alter a creek's water chemistry and can lead to the death of plants and fish.


Instead: Dispose of pet waste in the garbage.


Overused garden chemicals?

Pesticides and hebicides can wash or be blown by the wind into the storm drain system where they are hazardous to aquatic life.


Instead: Use products with chemicals that are less toxic to the environment. For more information on less toxic gardening and pest control, and participating stores, visit Our Water Our World's website at


Over-watered your landscaping or garden?

Excess water from too much irrigation will pick up pollutants onthe way into the storm drain.


Instead: Water only your lawn and garden - not the sidewalk.


Allowed car to leak oil, antifreeze, or other liquids?

Automotive liquids allowed to drip on driveways and roads turns into an oily residue that is washed into the storm drain system by rainwater or runoff from landscape watering or sidewalk/driveway hose-downs


Instead: Have leaks repaired as soon as you notice a spot on the driveway or in the garage.


Drained pool, spa, hot tub, or fountain water into the storm drains?

The chemicals used in pools, spas, hot tubs and fountains can be toxic to aquatic life in local streams and the San Francisco Bay Area.


Instead: When cleaning out your pool, spa, hot tub, or fountain, discharge the water into a sewer line after obtaining permission from the local sewage treatment plant.


Dumped anything into the storm drains?


Instead: Use motor oil recycling programs, household hazardous waste collection programs, composting, and other recycling and or garbage disposal services. Contact the Community Services Recycling Program at (408) 399-5796.


Remember, what is dumped into the storm drain flows directly into local creeks and San Francisco Bay without filtering or treatment.