Polluted Runoff

stormwater pipe into oceanPolluted runoff is the single biggest source of pollution to California’s coastal waters. When it rains, storm water runs over dirty streets, rooftops, parking lots and lawns, carrying with it a toxic cocktail of pollutants, including disease-causing pathogens, gasoline and lubricants, pesticides, fertilizers, trash, sediment and heavy metals. Even during dry weather, activities like lawn watering and car washing send polluted water down storm drains. This runoff does not undergo treatment like sewage does, but flows untreated directly to our creeks and ocean, making swimming and surfing unsafe and threatening marine life. Due to increasing urbanization and the increasing percentage of land covered by impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots, stormwater is the fastest growing source of water pollution in the US.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper works to address polluted runoff from numerous sources, including municipal storm sewer systems, industrial facilities, construction sites, irrigated agriculture, and individual households and businesses.

Channelkeeper’s input was instrumental in shaping the Storm Water Management Programs that each municipality in the greater Santa Barbara area is now implementing, pursuant to the statewide permit for small municipal storm sewer systems, to reduce stormwater pollution in their individual jurisdictions.

Channelkeeper conducts monitoring of industrial facilities and large construction sites during rain events to monitor compliance with the state’s industrial and construction stormwater permits. If we discover violations of these permits’ requirements, we document them by collecting and analyzing water samples and taking photographs and video, and then report them to the appropriate government agencies and follow up to ensure that the violations have been addressed. On occasion, if these efforts fail to remedy the problem, we use available legal tools such as the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act to compel compliance with the law.

Finally, Channelkeeper also educates the wider community about what individuals can do to reduce their contribution to runoff pollution, including by installing “Low Impact Development” features such as rain gardens or cisterns on their properties.