Environmental Health and Safety

Storm Water is Important

Most of the time, a rainstorm is a blessing, part of a process as old as the earth itself. Rainwater nourishes thirsty trees, plants, and grass, as well as replenishes water supplies above and below ground for use by our community and local wildlife. Other times, due to human activity and urban development, storm water can become a source of pollution. Storm water provides a means for many pollutants produced during our daily activities to reach the water we drink, the water we clean with, and the water we play in. However, if we pay careful attention to the way we conduct our daily activities, we can ensure our water supply will remain healthy and safe.

During a rainstorm, water encounters many different types of surfaces: paved roads and driveways, shingled roofs, brick patios, as well as grass, flowerbeds, forests, and other vegetation. Rainwater that falls on pervious, or vegetated, areas is allowed to seep into the ground, feeding surrounding vegetations and recharging soil nutrients and groundwater supplies. When storm water falls on impervious surfaces, such as roads, roofs, compacted soil, and other developed areas, the pollution problems begin. Storm water that is not allowed to seep into the ground concentrates on impervious surfaces and eventually enters a storm water inlet to be discharged into a local river or lake. On the way to the storm water drainage system, the water is exposed to many substances, some of which are picked up and carried away. This may include oil and gasoline from vehicles; dirty, soapy water from outdoor cleaning activities; litter, debris, and sand or dirt from construction activities. Any of these materials, along with many others, have the potential to pollute our surface waters.

Decreasing storm water pollution is a responsibility shared by all members of the community. In both our work and private lives, we all must adopt measures to control the pollutants. Some of us have jobs that involve direct responsibility for the reduction of storm water pollution. Everyone, however, must keep safe practices in mind outside of the workplace, during everyday activities, in order to keep our waters clean. Students, staff, faculty, vendors, and visitors at the University of Michigan - Dearborn should be concerned about storm water pollution, both on and off campus. Remember, pollution is difficult to handle once it occurs. It is generally easier and less expensive to control pollution before it happens, rather than to clean it up afterwards.