Stormwater Quality

Stormwater impacts both water quantity and water quality. The amount of stormwater runoff increases as hard surfaces increase. Large amounts of runoff can cause erosion and flooding problems. Stormwater with pollutants negatively impact the health of our local waterways, and animals like fish, turtles, frogs, and plants cannot survive in the unhealthy water.

Page updated on Sep 15, 2017 at 3:12 PM

Where Does Pollution Come From?

Almost every street, lawn, driveway, rooftop, and parking lot is connected to a storm drain.  When it rains, stormwater flows over these surfaces and mixes with pollutants such as spilled motor oil, pet waste, fertilizers, pesticides, paint, grease, and litter.  This polluted stormwater runoff then flows directly to our local waterways, which eventually flow to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.


Water Quality

When it rains, stormwater flows over hard surfaces and mixes with pollutants such as spilled motor oil, pet waste, fertilizer, pesticides, paint, grease, and litter.  This stormwater then runs directly to our local waterways and is not treated.  Polluted stormwater runoff can have many adverse effects on plants, fish, animals, and people.  The City has been proactive in its efforts to control stormwater pollution by implementing structural Best Management Practices (BMPs) to treat stormwater and providing public education and outreach about pollution prevention.  Stormwater Quality Best Management Practices (BMPs) are facilities that treat water quality both at the surface and underground.

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a pollution budget, or “diet”, for a body of water.  The TMDL represents the maximum amount of a pollutant that can occur in a waterbody while still meeting its water quality standards.  Visit the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) page and the Stormwater Infrastructure Projects page to learn about what the City is doing to improve water quality in our streams and rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.

The City also participates in the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP), which is an urban cost-share program that provides financial incentives and technical assistance to property owners that install Best Management Practices (BMPs) in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay watershed. 


Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program

The City's MS4 Program includes activities that reduce pollution to local waterways.  Visit the MS4 Permit Program page to learn more about the City's program.


Top 10 Things You Can Do to Protect Local Streams and Rivers

  1. Never throw or dump anything down storm drains, they are for rain water only.
  2. Don’t litter. Put trash where it belongs.
  3. Always clean up after your pets. Dispose of pet waste properly.
  4. Keep your car well maintained and fix leaks as soon as possible.
  5. Use fertilizers and pesticides sparingly, if at all.
  6. Get involved by joining a stream clean-up, marking storm drains, building a rain barrel, participating in invasive species removal, or other projects.
  7. Properly dispose of hazardous materials such as paint, oil, and antifreeze. The City's Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Recycling program allows residents to properly dispose of hazardous materials.
  8. Don't blow grass clippings and leaves in the street or down a storm drain. Use the City's Yard Waste Recycling programs.
  9. Plant a tree. Trees provide numerous environmental benefits.
  10. Be our eyes and ears. If you observe a spill, hazardous materials in the stream, or someone dumping something down the storm drain, contact the Stormwater Management Division at 703-746-4014.

Did you know that only rain should go down the storm drain?  Visit the illegal discharge page to learn more about how to identify an illegal discharge and what to do if you see someone dumping in a stream or storm drain.

Pass the pollution prevention message along and let others know how they can make a difference.  Visit the What You Can Do page to get more information on how you can help protect local streams and rivers. 

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