Stormwater runoff is the water that flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots, streets, and other hard surfaces during rainstorms. The portion of stormwater that is not absorbed into the ground generally drains to ditches, culverts, catch basins, and storm sewers. It does not receive treatment before entering the community’s streams and lakes.

Unlike wastewater, which is treated before it is released back into the environment, stormwater goes directly into a community’s ponds, streams, and lakes. Because stormwater comes in large amounts at unpredictable, treating it all as wastewater would be very expensive. Standard practice prior to the mid 1900’s was to build combined stormwater and sanitary sewer lines. In the older parts of Omaha, there are some combined lines, so a portion of the stormwater may get treated.

As stormwater flows into the nearest storm drain, it picks up fertilizers, motor oil, industrial chemicals, grass clippings, litter, pet waste, and anything else that might be in its path. The storm drain system then transports the water and pollutants to local waterbodies. Some people illegally dump trash, yard clippings, used cooking oil, motor oil, and other pollutants into storm drains, adding to the contamination. Anything that goes into a storm drain will eventually empty into the nearest creek, lake, or river. It usually does NOT go to a water treatment facility.

Any surface area that does not readily absorb water and impedes the natural infiltration of water into the soil. Common examples include roofs, driveways, parking areas, sidewalks, patios, decks, tennis courts, and concrete or asphalt streets.

Creating natural areas on your property can help reduce the quantity of storm water runoff. Disposing of wastes properly, using the minimum amount of chemicals on your yard, and keeping your car well maintained can reduce the amount of pollution that you add to the stormwater runoff.

We can all work together to reduce and prevent stormwater pollution. Each individual can play an important role by practicing conservation and by changing certain everyday habits. For example:

  • Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions.
  • Learn to recognize what types of discharges are prohibited and report any signs of illicit discharge on line or call 444-3908.
  • Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains. These outlets likely drain directly to lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands.
  • Dispose of used motor oil, antifreeze, paints, and other household chemicals properly, not in storm drains. Use the new Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Visit www.underthesink.com for more information.
  • Clean up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease, and antifreeze. Do not hose them into the street where they can eventually reach local streams and lakes.
  • Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas.
  • Wash your car on the lawn or take it to a commercial car wash facility. Washing cars on driveways or streets means that the cleaning products will flow directly into the storm drain and into a nearby stream, lake, or river. By washing your car on the lawn, the soil will remove some of the pollutants; and using a commercial car wash facility will ensure that the water and pollutants go to a water treatment facility.

Fact Sheets