Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one cause of water pollution in Texas. In most cases in Texas today, stormwater either does not receive any treatment before it enters our waterways or is inadequately treated. Polluted water creates numerous costs to the public and to wildlife. As the saying goes, "we all live downstream." Communities, such as Abilene, that use surface water for their drinking supply must pay much more to clean up polluted water than clean water.
Polluted water hurts the wildlife in creeks, streams, rivers and lakes. Dirt from erosion, also called sediment, covers up fish habitats while fertilizers can cause too much algae to grow, which also hurts wildlife by using up the oxygen they need to survive. Soaps hurt fish gills and fish skin, and other chemicals damage plants and animals when they enter the water.
The quantity of stormwater is also a problem. When stormwater falls on hard surfaces like roads, roofs, driveways and parking lots, it cannot seep into the ground, so it runs off to lower areas. To give you an idea of the difference a hard surface makes, consider the difference between one inch of rain falling onto a meadow and a parking lot. The parking lot sheds 16 times the amount of water that a meadow does!
Because more water runs off hard surfaces, developed areas can experience local flooding. The high volume of water also causes streams banks to erode and washes the wildlife that lives there downstream.