Definition & Impact

What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is rain that does not get absorbed into the ground, but flows into drainage systems that flow to creeks and rivers. Stormwater can also refer to any runoff that occurs from washing cars, power washing impervious surfaces, over watering of lawns and gardens, or other sources.

No Treatment / Filtration

Because stormwater receives no treatment or filtration, it carries pollutants into local creeks, sloughs and Humboldt Bay. In general, if a pollutant enters a storm drain, it will discharge directly into the nearest creek or waterway with no further treatment before it enters Humboldt Bay and then the ocean. Federal, state and local laws require that businesses and citizens put only rain down the drain!

For additional information about stormwater and non-point pollution, check out the following resources:
Humboldt Bay: A priceless resource
Humboldt Bay is the 2nd largest estuary in California and the most ecologically diverse coastal embayment on the U.S. west coast. It provides habitat for hundreds of thousands of migratory water birds. It is home to more than 100 fish species and 350 invertebrate animal species - many of which are commercially-valuable and dependent on the Bay for spawning and rearing habitat.

Run-off from the storm drains can have a significant impact on the water quality of the Bay. During the rainy season, large amounts of pollutants flow into the bay, depositing toxins and sediments. Because the Bay is large and shallow but has such a small mouth, it does not flush well. Thus, pollutants build up, potentially degrading its water quality. Polluted storm water run-off presents an ongoing hazard for the fish, birds, and other wildlife living in and around the Bay and for all who use and enjoy it.

Storm drains are separate from our household sewer systems. On a rainy day, storm-drain waters flow directly into our local creeks, sloughs and Humboldt Bay without treatment of any kind. Stormwater at no time enters Arcata’s Wastewater Treatment Plant to even be screened for garbage debris. If it goes through a street storm-drain grate, then it goes directly to the nearest creek.