The challenge of urban areas

In nature, trees and earth help absorb rain slowly, breaking down pollutants, refilling groundwater and keeping waterways healthy. Maintaining this cycle is a challenge in urban areas that are covered in buildings, roads and other surfaces that don't allow rainwater to soak into the ground.

How stormwater affects our water

As it travels to storm sewers, stormwater picks up pollution along the way. Stormwater may look clean, but it can contain motor oil, gasoline, dog poo, garbage, fertilizer and other contaminants. These materials go directly into the nearest body of water, where they can be harmful to plants and wildlife.

Heavy rains can also put high volumes of stormwater into streams and creeks in a short period of time. This can cause erosion and stir up sediment, making it hard for fish to breathe.

Managing stormwater

The traditional approach to stormwater management was to drain stormwater as quickly as possible into the nearest waterway. Modern approaches try to mimic natural processes and allow stormwater to soak into the ground or be released more slowly into local waters.

The storm drains on driveways and streets collect rain, melting snow and other water and channel it into stormwater sewers. These sewers empty directly into the nearest stream, the Canal or Lake Erie.

You can help protect local waters by keeping harmful materials out of storm drains.

What you can do at home

Never dump anything down a storm drain

  • Anything that goes into a storm drain goes directly into the nearest body of water.
  • Recycle used motor oil and antifreeze.
  • Take paints, solvents, and other household chemicals to one of the Region's household hazardous waste drop off locations. Visit the Region's Household Hazardous Waste page for more information.
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash, where soaps will be collected and channeled into the treatment system.

In your yard:

  • Cutting down the amount of chemicals and other materials in your yard means less will be carried into storm drains and end up in our local waters.
  • Have a drug-free lawn: cut down on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. 
  • Keep clippings and other yard waste out of creeks, streams and other waterways (compost them if you can). 
  • Pick up after your pet.

Increase water absorption on your property

  • Increasing the amount of surfaces on your property that can absorb water and lets water soak into the ground instead of going into storm drains.
  • Use alternative materials for your driveway/sidewalk, like grass pavers, mulch, gravel or pervious concrete. 
  • Reduce the surface area of your driveway or sidewalk. 
  • Ensure that your lawn and garden has enough top soil.