In the past, it was thought water pollution was caused mainly by industrial and municipal waste water treatment plant discharges. A lot of effort, resources, and time was put into cleaning up these point sources of waste water. Now, the effort is targeted towards clean-up of non-point source pollution, water pollution is generated all over and carried into rivers, streams, pipes, and ditches.
The problem with non-point source pollution is it is very expensive to treat and discharge. Treatment facilities would have to be very large to treat storm peak flows and would sit unused more than 95% of the time.
The best way to improve stormwater quality is to treat the source. Do not let runoff get polluted in the beginning.
Specifically, for Salt Lake County, what goes into the storm drain makes its way into the local creek, rivers, and streams. Each of these are part of a larger watershed — the Jordan River Watershed, which lead to major rivers, and eventually to the Great Salt Lake. Because all of the bodies of water are interconnected and not defined geographically by county, state, or city lines, the federal government regulates everything that ends up in the storm drain system.
The federal government regulates stormwater through a permit process, referred to as Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit Program (MS4 Permit Program). Each permit mandates the county to meet specific water quality standards.
Salt Lake County was the first MS4 permitted in 1995. Since then, all cities have joined together to accomplish federal regulations and protect stormwater quality in Salt Lake County. All participating municipalities are in the same watershed and are co-permittees legally at the Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Quality. This means combining efforts and outreach because all the waters need protecting in the areas which we maintain.
What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the water from rain, snow, and sleet which travels down the gutters into the storm drain.
Stormwater starts off clean. Stormwater flows directly into rivers, lakes, and streams. It is almost never treated. Everything stormwater collects from the land surface, roadways, sidewalks, parking lots, construction sites, business parks, etc. is carried to gutters, storm drains, canals, drainageways, and finally ends up in rivers and streams — all untreated.
Types of Stormwater Management Facilities
Grass Drainage Swales
Nonstructural Drainage Practices
Wet and Dry Ponds
Porous (Permeable) Pavement
Rain Barrels and Cisterns
Underground Filtering Facilities
Underground Flow Splitter
Underground Hydrodynamic Separators
Underground Sand Filter
Underground Storage Structures