We all play a part in keeping our water safe and clean

Published Jan 25, 2022

Any amount of precipitation is appreciated when you live in the desert. And when it does finally rain in Arizona, we know it can often come down quickly and can even cause flooding, creating strong water flows that go over driveways and sidewalks, through streets, and parking lots. These forceful water flows can also carry pollutants such as trash, oil, pet waste, and pesticides into our storm drains, contaminating water that eventually flows into our local washes, parks, streams, and wetlands.

Stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of water pollution in the United States. As it flows, stormwater runoff picks up dirt, trash, oil, grease, chemicals, and other pollutants. Stormwater runoff is not treated, so those pollutants are carried to waterways, canals, parks, community lakes, retention basins, and dry wells. Polluted stormwater runoff can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems, the environment, and our drinking water sources. All of us need to understand our actions have an impact, and that is why Phoenix Water Services is focusing on preventing stormwater pollution during their 3rd Annual Stormwater Awareness Week .

It’s also important to note that not all water is treated equally. Cities have two separate water collection systems. The sanitary sewer system collects wastewater from sinks, toilets, showers, and washing machines transported through pipes and flows to treatment plants. Whereas storm drains carry water that remains untreated directly into washes, parks, and riverbeds, which then can seep into our aquifers. While both systems have extensive infrastructure, the stormwater system that includes - ditches and culverts, ponds and lakes, curbs, and gutters, is not part of a treatment process before the stormwater can find its way into our groundwater. This is why we all must do our part to protect our water and our environment by remembering “only rain in the storm drain.”

Basic stormwater runoff facts can help us better understand the impact of contaminated rainwater on our environment. Here are some valuable tips to help us all better understand the role we can play in keeping our stormwater free of contaminants, including the following:

Pet waste
Collect pet waste in a plastic bag and throw it away in a garbage can. Pet waste contains bacteria and other pathogens that are not healthy additives to our water.

Automobile Maintenance
One quart of motor oil can contaminate over 250,000 gallons of water. That is why it is vital to maintain vehicles to prevent fluid leaks. Use drip pans to catch leaks. Clean up leaks and spills using an absorbent such as kitty litter or sand. Just remember to sweep it up immediately and properly dispose of it.

Vehicle Washing
If possible, use a commercial or self-service car wash because it is more water-efficient. If you choose to wash your vehicle at home, make sure you use a bucket and phosphate-free, biodegradable detergent and direct wash water to landscaping when possible. Make sure you dispose of wash water into a sink or toilet.

Lawn Care
Overwatering can carry pollutants to rivers and washes. So use pesticides, fertilizers, and other lawn care products sparingly and follow label instructions. Do not sweep or wash yard debris into the street because it can clog storm drain inlets, causing flooding.

Household Chemicals
Keep chemicals in labeled, closed containers. Unused household chemicals, including paint, used oil, cleaners, and yard chemicals, should be appropriately disposed of or recycled. Take these items to a Household Hazardous Waste site or collection event in your city.

Pools and Spas
Backwash or drain your pool, spa, or water feature to the sanitary sewer using your home’s cleanout. Discharging pool water to the street can contaminate water with chemicals, bacteria, and other pollutants.

Trash & Recycling
Bag and tie up loose trash. Also, make sure you keep trash and recycling bins closed.

The practice of these healthy household habits can keep common pollutants off the ground and out of our stormwater. In the end, protecting all of our water sources is a community effort that begins long before it rains.

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For over 50 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information, visit .

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