Stormwater Runoff

Pollutants in Runoff

When it rains, stormwater runs off of the paved surfaces of our city and lawns. As it flows over these impervious surfaces, it picks up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants before entering a storm drain, and then flowing into the closest body of water.

Though the amount of any particular pollutant might not seem like very much, when multiplied by the size of a given community, it has a very large impact on the quality of our water.  Pollutants commonly found in urban stormwater runoff include:

  • Fertilizer
  • Grease
  • Heavy Metals such as:
    • Cadmium
    • Copper
    • Lead
    • Zinc
  • Leaves and Grass Clippings
  • Litter
  • Motor Oil
  • Pesticides
  • Pet Waste
  • Sediment (Dirt)
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Effects of Stormwater Runoff

  • Bacteria and other pathogens from pet waste can wash into recreational areas and create serious health problems.
  • Litter such as cigarette butts, bottles and cans, plastic items often wash into creeks and streams and can kill, suffocate or hurt the creatures that reside there.
  • People and other animals can become sick or die from eating diseased fish or ingesting polluted water.
  • Polluted stormwater affects drinking water sources – which affects human health and increases drinking water treatment costs. 
  • Stormwater runoff that has been polluted has adverse effects on plants, fish, animals, and people. Sediment clouds the water and makes it difficult for aquatic plants to grow and can even destroy aquatic habitats.
  • Too many nutrients from fertilizers and pesticides can cause algae blooms, which, in turn, remove oxygen from the water, when the algae die. When oxygen levels are low, fish and other organisms cannot survive.

Hazardous Waste

Household hazardous waste should be taken to 3RC - The EnviroStation to be recycled. Household wastes like pesticides, paint, motor oil, and antifreeze poison the creatures living in the creek or stream.

Do Your Part

You can get involved to help protect water quality. You can volunteer to Adopt-A-Stream, Mark Storm Drains in your neighborhood, Participate in Stream Watch, or you can invite a speaker to your next meeting or classroom. For more information about our stormwater volunteer programs visit our stormwater volunteering website or contact Andy Szabat at 336-575-0003 or Email

If you see any storm drain, pipe, creek or stream that has an unusual smell, appearance or signs of dumping/suspected pollutants in Winston-Salem, please report it to us right away by calling the Stormwater Pollution Hotline at 336-727-8000 or CityLink 311.

Stormwater Runoff Video