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The Storm Drain Connection

When water flows across our lawns, driveways, and roads (rain, melting snow, etc.) it picks up fertilizers, pet waste, engine oil, and more. It’s called stormwater runoff and the pollutants it carries are transported straight to our streams, rivers, and lakes. No filters. No treatment. The storm drain system flows directly to our local waterways. This differs from the sanitary sewer system that your house is connected to, where wastewater is sent to a treatment plant. Even soil can be considered a pollutant when excess sediment washes into the storm drain and clouds up our waterways.

Stormwater runoff is a major cause of water pollution in our nation’s waterways, and one that is extremely difficult to regulate. We all contribute to pollutants in runoff, and we can all help protect our water quality.

A rainbow colored rainbow. A rainbow colored rainbow.

Tips for keeping pollution out of the storm drain


  • Adjust sprinkler heads to spray only lawn and garden areas, not onto driveways and roads.
  • Keep fertilizers and other garden chemicals off driveways and sidewalks. Sweep up any excess.
  • Use only as much fertilizer as needed, preferably natural/biodegradable products.
  • Use natural/non-toxic methods to control garden pests. If pesticides or herbicides are needed, check with local nurseries for products that are registered for use near water.
  • Use native and drought-tolerant plants to reduce the need for fertilizer and watering.
  • Mow lawns at least 3" high for deeper and healthier roots that reduce irrigation needs and runoff potential.
  • Mulch or compost yard debris (grass, leaves, etc.) and keep them out of the storm drain.


  • Pick up after your pet. Their poop is not a natural fertilizer, it’s bad for water quality and human health. Bag & trash it!
  • Never dump household toxics (paint, cleaning products, engine oil, antifreeze, pesticides, medications etc.) down the storm drain.
  • Wash your car on the lawn to keep soapy water out of the storm drain and give your lawn a nice soak! Even better, use a commercial carwash.
  • Sweep dirt into the garden (don’t wash down the storm drain); put debris in the trash.
  • Minimize impervious surfaces on your property.
  • Drain pool or spa water onto a lawn that can absorb it without runoff. To drain into your sewer clean-out (not storm drain!), contact your local sewer district for regulations. Or call a professional.
  • Use sediment controls during construction, such as silt fences or straw bales, to keep soils onsite and out of the stormdrain.

Salt Lake County Stream Friendly Practices

There are many ways to protect stream health. Follow these stream friendly practices to protect water quality, improve native plant diversity, and prevent flood damage.