Polluted stormwater runoff is a source of water pollution in the Rio Grande. In most cases, stormwater is either not treated at all or is not treated enough before it enters the Rio Grande. It is polluted by human activity, it will enter the river untreated.
Cleaning up polluted surface water can be very expensive. In Albuquerque, ground water has been used for our drinking supply, but soon we will be using river water as our primary source, and we’ll be drinking what goes into our rivers!
Polluted water also hurts wildlife in streams, rivers and lakes. Dirt from erosion (sediment) covers up fish habitats. Fertilizers can cause too much algae to grow, which uses up the oxygen in water that wildlife needs to survive. Soaps hurt fish gills and fish skin, and other chemicals damage plants and animals when they enter the water.
The amount of stormwater is also a problem. When stormwater falls on hard surfaces like roads, roofs, driveways and parking lots, it cannot seep into the ground, so it runs off to lower areas. A hard surface makes a big difference. A parking lot will shed 16 times more water than a meadow of the same size.
Because more water runs off hard surfaces, developed areas can also experience local flooding. The high volume of water can wash away stream banks and the wildlife that live downstream.