What is stormwater?

Rain becomes stormwater when it travels over our yards, roads and sidewalks. Stormwater flows to storm drains and ditches, which empty directly into our lakes, streams and Bellingham Bay often without treatment. When stormwater picks up fertilizer, pesticides, oil, soap, and bacteria from pet waste, water can become polluted. Stormwater is managed to ensure the health and safety of our citizens and wildlife.

Why should I care?

Stormwater runoff is the most common cause of water pollution. In Whatcom County, most storm drains lead straight to streams, lakes, or marine waters — whatever goes into your storm drain can end up, untreated, in our local waters. Stormwater not only carries harmful pollutants into our waterways, but can also result in flooding and erosion problems.

How does stormwater enter our lakes and streams?

Stormwater runoff is water from rainfall or snowmelt that moves over the ground or other impervious surfaces. As land becomes covered with impervious surfaces such as rooftops, roads, and parking lots, there are very few places where stormwater can be absorbed by the soil. The greater amount of stormwater runoff, and the related increase in the speed of stormwater flows, erodes the soil and adds to flooding problems.

Additionally, as stormwater travels over the ground and impervious surfaces it collects pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria and other microscopic organisms, sediment, oil, and many other pollutants. Without treatment, stormwater can carry these pollutants into Lake Whatcom, our drinking water reservoir, and other nearby waterbodies.

What can I do to help?

Preventing pollutants and debris from making their way into ditches, streets, and storm drains is the first step towards dealing with stormwater runoff issues. The City and County both regularly run street sweepers throughout the watershed to prevent polluted and nutrient-rich stormwater from entering into our streams and lakes.

The City and County are also engaged in several capital improvement projects that are designed to treat stormwater flows while limiting the amount of stormwater entering the Lake.

Reducing the source of pollutants before they get a chance to be transported by stormwater is one of the best ways to protect water quality.

  • See if you qualify for the Homeowner Incentive Program to get reimbursed for completing projects on your property that reduce the amount of stormwater entering Lake Whatcom

  • Pick up, bag, and place pet waste in the trash

  • Use a commercial car wash to keep pollution out of our streams

  • Keep leaves and grass off streams, storm drains, and side walks