What happens or doesn't happen to the rainfall or snowmelt as it travels across the landscape is making a huge difference in our lives everyday here in Northeast Ohio. The water quality of our streams, rivers and lakes is directly affected by the water quantity that doesn't get absorbed by soil after a rain storm or when the snow begins to melt.
When rain fall or snow melt, also known as stormwater, comes in contact with pavement or roofs, this water has no where to go but to run along the surface and into streams or "storm" sewers. These sewers carry the extra rain directly to a nearby stream, river, or lake untreated. When there is a lot of water - after a big rain storm or snow melt, we see streams that usually carry only small trickles of water turn into raging rivers of storm water runoff. These often flood roads, and sometimes even homes. As the volume of water exceeds the amount a stream can carry, it overflows the banks just like bath tub with a plugged drain.
But the amount of runoff isn't the only problem. Excess storm water can move fast, and that force enables the flow to pick up pollutants and erode bare soils. These pollutants get carried away to be deposited into larger streams, rivers, ponds. They eventually reach Lake Erie or the Ohio River, both very important sources of fresh water for drinking and for recreation.
Natural environments, like forests, meadows, and wetlands once covered northeast Ohio. They acted like a sponge, soaking up water after a storm. As we have covered that landscape with roofs and roads, we've increased the amount of water that runs off the land, and increased the amount of pollution that water carries. It now takes a smaller volume of rain or snow to create pollution-carrying flood waters.
To protect our communities, and our water resources, there are federal laws requiring communities to manage storm water locally. These regulations guide local development of plans which handle the flow, storage and quality of rain water as it passes across the landscape in that community. The goal of the plans is to reduce flooding and water pollution.
Citizens like you can play a big role in your community's efforts to reduce storm water pollution. First, learn where you live or work in relation to our water resources. This is where the extra rainwater goes when it runs through your downspout off the roof at home or across a parking lot at work. You need to know your watershed address.
What's a watershed? A watershed is an area of land where all the water eventually flows or drains to a common water body such as a river, lake or ocean. So you not only live on a particular street, you also live in the watershed of a particular stream. Once you figure out what watershed you live in, you can follow the path of the water from rain storms and melting snow from where you live or work to our spectacular rivers and lakes.
Knowing where the water goes and what you can do reduce the volume, speed and quality of water leaving places you live or work is easier than you than think.
Be a Conservation Crusader today and follow this link to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Earth Resources Information Network website or www.OhioERIN.com to discover which watershed you live in. With one click you'll be able to create, view and print a report on your watershed. The report describes land use, water resources, and water quality, and helps you find organizations such as your local county Soil and Water Conservation District that can help you learn more and get involved. For a full description how to get watershed info using ERIN, click here to view the YouTube instructional video.
For more information on watersheds and how to get involved in volunteer watershed stewardship groups in your area, contact your local county Soil and Water Conservation District.