Stormwater and why it matters

Kayaker at BeachThe Pacific Northwest is famous for its water, natural beauty and mountainous landscapes. Puget Sound and the region’s rivers have been an incredible resource for generations upon generations, starting with the Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin, and Muckleshoot tribes.

Pierce County works to enhance water quality and protect natural resources for the benefit of our community. One of the things we do is help manage stormwater. 

Stormwater is water that does not soak into the ground and instead flows across hard surfaces like roofs and parking lots into the nearest body of water. It can pick up pollutants along the way, depositing them directly into our rivers, streams and Puget Sound untreated.

 Changes in weather patterns may lead to greater rainfall. At the same time, more development means more hard surfaces. We will see more pollution entering our waterways as a result. 

Polluted runoff can be a serious health risk and significant environmental threat to our rivers, lakes and streams. Each time it rains, pollutants such as oil, antifreeze, fertilizer, pesticides, soap and animal waste are washed into storm drains and ditches, which typically drain directly to a local water body, or into the ground without treatment.

Think about how this could impact our water quality and ecosystems where orcas, fish,  people, pets and plants depend on healthy water to survive. Water is a vital shared resource we all have a responsibility to help protect. When we all do our part to reduce stormwater pollution, we can make a big impact in improving water quality. 


5 Ways to Reduce Stormwater Pollution and Improve Water Quality

  1. Plant Trees and Build Rain Gardens: Thanks to the power of plants, native trees and rain gardens filter stormwater naturally. Rain that soaks into the ground is purified as it slowly feeds into our waterways, making for cleaner rivers and streams and healthier ecosystems.
  2. Install a Rain Barrel: Rain barrels catch rainwater from rooftops, preventing it from entering waterways before plants can clean it. Stored rainwater can be used to keep yards thriving during drier seasons. Check out our online rain barrel workshop to get tips on how to set one up and buy a rain barrel at a discount.
  3. Use a Commercial Car Wash: Cars release pollutants like tire dust, oil and antifreeze. When you wash your car in your driveway or street, those pollutants often end up in the nearest body of water. Instead, use a commercial car wash where water runs into the sanitary sewer system for treatment.
  4. Decrease Chemical Use in Your Yard: Try swapping out chemicals for natural yard care practices, such as managing pests with native bugs. Remember to keep lawn chemicals away from storm drains and catch basins. Unwanted chemicals can be properly disposed of at one of the household hazardous waste sites across Pierce County.
  5. Pick Up After Your Pet:While we all love our furry friends, nobody loves picking up after them. However, when it rains, harmful bacteria from pet waste travels to nearby streams and storm drains. Do your part to protect the health of people, pets and fish by picking up after your pet.

Reducing pollutants before they get picked up by stormwater is one of the best ways to prevent water pollution. You are the solution to cleaning up our streams, rivers, lakes and Puget Sound.

Best Management Practices

What is stormwater and how can you make an impact on the environment? Learn that and more in our series of flyers that take you through everything from catch basins to pet waste.


Contact Us
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Phone: (253) 798-2725
Fax: (253) 798-7709
7:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Mailing Address:
2702 S 42nd St, Ste 201
Tacoma, WA 98409-7322

In Person: Visit Suite 109