Colorful California Landscape: A Water-Friendly Garden
Colorful California Landscape:  A Water-Friendly Garden

Storm Water & Urban Runoff Pollution (SWURP)

Even though you live miles from the ocean, you may be polluting it without knowing it.

Did you know...

Anything we use in our home, car and business like motor oil, paint, pesticides, fertilizers and cleaners can wind up in the street.  A little water from rain or a garden hose can carry automotive and household materials through the storm drain polluting bays, wetlands, and the ocean.  Storm drains are there to drain water off the street - not for disposal of hazardous materials.  Because storm drains are separate from our sewer system, SWURP can flow into the ocean without treatment.

Where does it go?

These pollutants flow together on a journey from the storm drain to the flood control channel where it can eventually empty into the ocean. This type of pollution is called Storm Water & Urban Runoff Pollution (SWURP) and is a serious threat to the beaches and ocean of Southern California.

What is SWURP?

Storm water runoff refers to seasonal rainfall flows.  It is very noticeable during a heavy rain storm when large volumes of water drain off paved areas.  Urban runoff can happen anytime of the year when excessive water use from irrigation, car washing, and other sources carries litter, lawn clippings, and othe urban pollutants into storm drains.  Even an automobile leaking motor oil 20 miles inland can still pollute the ocean.

How is it different from other forms of water pollution?

SWURP can include anything that washes into the storm drain from the community. Unlike water pollution linked to factories or sewage treatment plants, SWURP can come from city streets, neighborhoods, farms, construction sites and parking lots

SWURP and the ocean

SWURP may have a serious impact on water quality in Orange County. Pollutants from the strom drain system can harm marine life as well as coastal and wetland habitats. It can also degrade recreation areas such as beaches, harbors, and bays

What can you do?

You can control SWURP by supporting city and county activities to keep your streets clean.  You can help by participating in recycling, beach clean-ups, and the proper disposal of hazardous materials.  Since many businesses and residents are unaware of the storm water & urban runoff problem, encourage neighbors and co-workers to be careful in not polluting the storm drain system.  Together, you, your neighbors and city can make a difference in keeping the ocean and beaches clean for ourselves and wildlife.  Contact the Storm Water Participant in your area to share ideas or ask questions on keeping storm drains clean.

Water Capture

You home may already have gutters to channel water off the roof and away from your house.  From a 1-inch rainfall, the average home easily can produce 1,000 gallons or more of water from roof diversion.  You can channel all of that water to a variety of structures in your landscape for immediate use or holding.  It doesn't rain significantly here in Southern California, so we chose to capture the water in CUDO Cubes.  See a detailed description of these on our Irrigation Tour page.

Plant a Tree

Planting trees is another way to intercept stormwater run-off.  Trees act as mini-reservioirs, controlling runoff at the source. Trees reduce runoff by:

  • Intercepting and holding rain on leaves, branches and bark
  • Increasing infiltration and storage of rainwater through the tree's root system
  • Reducing soil erosion by slowing rainfall before it strikes.

According the the National Tree Benefit Calculator, our one Coastal Oak tree (with a 6" diameter) intercepted 164 gallons of stormwater runoff per year.

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Stewardship requires the recognition that we are all caretakers of the environment and economy for the benefit of present and future generations. We must balance the impacts of today's decisions with the needs of future generations. - The Minnesota Round Table on Sustainable Development (1998)