WASHINGTON (WJBF) – Stormwater is one the nation’s fastest growing waterway pollution sources, according to a 2020 Water Environment Federation (WEF) survey.
The survey showed that municipal governments nationwide spend approximately $18 billion to $24 billion on stormwater programs and infrastructure investments. Although, there’s a need for more funding in the stormwater sector. The survey estimated an $8.5 billion funding gap for stormwater infrastructure.
Claudio Ternieden, the WEF senior director of government affairs and strategic partnerships, said there’s a great cost in not having the proper stormwater infrastructure, both in resources and lives.
Tonya Bonitatibus, Savannah Riverkeeper executive director and riverkeeper, said it’s important for communities to be cautious about what they leave on the ground. Litter and chemicals flow into storm drains and then into neighborhood creeks and into the Savannah River when it rains.
Bonitatibus said storm drains are one of the largest sources of pollution in the Savannah River. She also said many people think the rain going into their neighborhood storm drains flow to a sewer system, but that’s not the case.
“It runs over the dog poop you’ve left in the back yard or the oil spill you’ve left in the front yard,” Bonitatibus said. “That picks up those pollutants and runs it again directly into that stream that’s in your neighborhood and eventually into the river.”
Storm drains also affect commutes. Si-Long Chen, an artist, said flooded storm drains and the lack of storm drains on different streets aren’t safe.
“When you go driving through it at 40 mph it’s kind of like Moses split the red sea,” Chen said.
Chen said it’s also unpleasant walking on sidewalks with overflowing and unmaintained drains.
“I can’t take a walk without getting my feet wet up to my calves,” Chen said. “It’s pretty bad.”
To address flooded and polluted storm drains, Ternieden believes it’s important for communities to have the proper funds and planning tactics from city leaders. He also believes stormwater education is important. That can be done by word of mouth and creative projects.
Chen recently participated in an art project called “It All Flows Into the Savannah.” The project allowed artist to draw murals around storm drains to bring awareness to stormwater pollution. Chen said she feels hopeful about the city keeping waterways clean because of the awareness being spread through art and local organizations.
“I feel like this is something Augusta should be proud of,” Chen said.