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Stormwater 101

Stormwater 101

Polluted Stormwater Runoff - Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

This is an overview on Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and polluted stormwater, the rainwater that runs off our streets and is the number one toxic threat to Puget Sound. Check out other links on this site to learn more about this organization, whose mission is to protect and enhance the waters of Puget Sound for the health and restoration of our aquatic ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.


700 Million Gallons

In an urban environment like Seattle, every storm washes pollution from rooftops, roads, and other hard surfaces into local waterways. What can we do? Find out at 700 Million Gallons, a site featuring projects, resources, and information related to Green Stormwater Infrastructure as a solution for managing polluted water. Be sure to take some time to understand the significance of this goal for King County under the site’s “The Goal page.

Local Work: What's King County up to?

King County’s stormwater web page features a wide variety of facts, infographics, videos, and guides for keeping polluted stormwater out of Puget Sound. Here are some of their cool resources!

Stormwater Pollution: The Big Picture

4-page infographic highlighting stormwater issues in King County.


Preventing Pollution Infographic

1-page infographic on surface water management with plenty of statistics and goals.


Introduction to stormwater in King County

Intro webpage with content on flow control and stormwater legislation.

Stormwater runoff pollution and how to reduce it

Extensive information page with infographics, facts, personal action ideas, and even posters! 

Stormwater Science

Detailed webpage discussing what stormwater is, why it’s important, and what specific chemicals cause stormwater pollution. 

Stormwater educational videos

Collection of short and engaging county-made videos including the Dog Doogity song and 19 “Yard Talk” episodes.

Stormwater glossary of terms and abbreviations

Confused about a stormwater-related term? Check here!


King County precipitation map

Map indicating average annual precipitation in different areas of King County.

Rain barrel information and sources for the Pacific Northwest

Resource page with useful guidance on home rain gardens. 


About Stormwater Facilities

Information page about different stormwater facilities run by King County.


Stormwater retrofit planning project for Green River Watershed

Project details page with links and documents about a local WRIA 9 project.


EPA Stormwater Program - NPDES

Information website about the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. 

Key Articles: Why is stormwater so crucial?

All You Need to Know About Stormwater Runoff - Sightline Institute


How We Got Into Such A Mess With Stormwater - InvestigateWest 


Stormwater Fixes Could Cost Billions

Policy Background

Policy Background

History of the Clean Water Act - EPA

The USA’s federal control of pollution began in 1948, paving the way for a series of policies and programs designed to ensure clean water across the country. See the EPA’s “Quick Links” and full website for more info. 


VIDEO - History of the Clean Water Act (5:18)

Very effective video. The Landmark Legislation was a fundamental turning point in the protection of all freshwater in the United States. The Clean Water Act's stated goal was to make all water fishable and swimmable. This law is the source of all modern day water protection. 


Loving Puget Sound to Death

In 1972, under the Clean Water Act, states were given more power to oppose industry contaminants in their rivers, lakes, and wetlands. However, as one policy director pointed out, “Storm water is destructive in a less obvious way.” This article speaks to the impact and policy choices behind stormwater runoff in the Puget Sound. 


VIDEO - Understanding the Clean Water Plan Process (3:47)

How can we impact King County's Clean Water Plan and how does it impact us? Learn about different decisions the county is making and how they plan to move forward.



Snohomish County Government

An overview of Floodplains, including the benefits and hazards they entail, through a local lens. 


Living with the River

An in-depth analysis of western Washington rivers, how they flood, and how to adapt our behavior and systems to exist in harmony with their natural cycle. This 44-page guide from the Snohomish County Government is full of scientific analysis, public policy, beautiful images, and real world relevance for advanced students. 


UW-Northwest Climate Assessment Report

The “Northwest Climate Assessment Report (2013)” from the University of Washington explores climate change implications for local landscapes, water systems, and communities. The full report is 271 pages, full of technical language, complex graphs, and complex concepts. However, this report also comes with a much more accessible 2-page summary and series of press releases.  


The Nature Conservancy--Floodplains By Design

Floodplains by Design (FbD) is an ambitious public-private partnership led by Ecology, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Puget Sound Partnership. FbD works to accelerate integrated efforts to reduce flood risks and restore habitat along Washington's major river corridors. Complete with videos, infographics, and policy analysis, this initiative serves as the perfect model to study when looking for solutions. 


Queensland Government-What are the consequences of floods?

A summary of the positive and negative effects of flooding in context of Australia for intermediate students. 

Sources of Pollutions 

Sources of Pollution

Pollution in Our Waterways

See Puget Soundkeeper’s page on how pollution impacts waterways in the Puget Sound. This page takes readers back to the historical sources of contamination in 1853 and how pollution is seen in our modern environment in a variety of forms. Learn about different types of toxic material from marine debris to agricultural pollution and oil spills. 


17 Toxic Chemicals of Concern in Puget Sound 

The Washington Department of Ecology is partnering with the Puget Sound Partnership and others on a long term effort called the Control of Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound. The project incorporates descriptions of the 17 toxic chemicals of concern, data about sources, loading, pathways, and priority actions. 

Green Stormwater Infrastructure, or Low Impact Development, is a set of engineering strategies that mimic natural watershed hydrology by slowing, evaporating, and filtering water before it reaches a stream or Lake Washington. 


GSI contrasts with traditional construction drainage techniques that collect and transport water to streams quickly; these traditional techniques can damage stream channels and degrade water quality. GSI uses various land planning and design practices to conserve and protect natural resources and reduce infrastructure costs.


What is Green Infrastructure?

Runoff from stormwater continues to be a major cause of water pollution in urban areas. It carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants through storm sewers into local waterways. Heavy rainstorms can cause flooding that damages property and infrastructure.


Historically, communities have used gray infrastructure—systems of gutters, pipes, and tunnels—to move stormwater away from where we live to treatment plants or straight to local water bodies. The gray infrastructure in many areas is aging, and its existing capacity to manage large volumes of stormwater is decreasing in areas across the country. To meet this challenge, many communities are installing green infrastructure systems to bolster their capacity to manage stormwater. By doing so, communities are becoming more resilient and achieving environmental, social and economic benefits. Basically, green infrastructure filters and absorbs stormwater where it falls.



Low Impact Development - Technical Manual for Puget Sound 

These manuals are developed by the EPA for state and local decision makers who are considering adoption of Low Impact Development, or Green Stormwater Infrastructure. These fact sheets explain the benefits of GSI/LID in clear terms and through examples, thereby eliminating barriers to implementation. 

WSU Puyallup LID Research Program

The WSU Puyallup LID Research Program is one of the largest installations in the nation focusing on the rapidly expanding field of low impact development/green stormwater infrastructure. They offer the unique capability to conduct long-term research on full-scale, replicated bioretention and permeable pavement facilities. 


Soils for Salmon

Builders, developers, and landscapers are adopting practices that preserve and improve the soil on building sites, to grow healthier landscapes and protect our waterways.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Green Infrastructure 101

All About Rain Gardens

All About Rain Gardens

Resource Library - 12,000 Rain Gardens

Imagine this — 12,000 rain gardens dispersed across the Puget Sound Region. Check out Washington-specific visual resources featured on this site to learn about the compelling case for mass adoption of rain gardens in the Pacific Northwest.


How to build a rain garden 

Great information page with resources on building a rain garden. Check one of their resources, a 5-minute video titled “Building a Rain Garden in the City,” showing the City of Port Townsend's work in using rain gardens to address stormwater pollution. 


Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington

61-page guide for the design, maintenance, and installation of rain gardens in Western Washington. The handbook is split into 5 categories: Introduction Information, Plan, Build, Plant, and Maintain. These detailed steps make this guide perfect for anyone hoping to build their own rain garden.


VIDEO - Building a Rain Garden in the Pacific Northwest (32:07)

A 32-minute video detailing how to build a rain garden. You'll learn the important steps to follow to site, design, construct, and maintain a beautiful landscape feature that captures and filters polluted runoff, helps prevent flooding, recharges our groundwater aquifers, and creates habitat for birds and butterflies.


Catching Rain Factsheet: Rain Garden Construction

A checklist for constructing your rain garden with detailed information about steps in the process of building a rain garden. Use this to think about what it takes to have a successful, thriving garden!


Catching Rain Factsheet: Rain Garden Construction Sequencing

Ever wondered what you should do first when building a rain garden? See this 2-page info-sheet outlining the order of constructing your rain garden.


Catching Rain Factsheet: Rain Garden Maintenance

Here's a guide with maintenance tips for your new rain garden. Categories range from handling storm damage to controlling weeds and maintaining mulch. 


Caring for Your Rain Garden

This 25-page rain garden guide contains snippets of useful information, from weeding to organizing rain garden care. They even have a “Care Calendar!” See page 25 for this table outlining the weekly and seasonal tasks required to upkeep a newly installed rain garden. 


Spanish Language - Quick Guide to Caring for Your Rain Garden 

This shorter document reflects key details from “Caring for Your Rain Garden” in Spanish.

Plant List

​Choosing plants is important! Find out what plants thrive in rain gardens and which species meet your needs, whether you’re interested in attracting birds or having seasonal color.

Keep it On Site

Keep it On Site

Disconnecting Downspouts - Rainwise 

Check out this 2-page pamphlet with guidance on disconnecting downspouts to reduce sewer overflows and protect our streams. The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” section on page 1 is particularly helpful. Disconnecting a downspout improperly could cause you or your neighbors big problems, such as wet basements, flooding, erosion, or landslides. 

VIDEO - How to Disconnect your Downspout (14:55)

Disconnecting your gutter's downspout from the sewer system is an effective and easy way to help reduce the risk of combined sewer overflows during heavy rain events, while providing extra water for lawns and other plants. Watch as Friends of the Rouge and Sierra Club demonstrate this DIY downspout disconnect at a local house in Detroit as part of the Land + Water WORKS Coalition.

Permeable Pavements

Permeable Pavements

Permeable Pavement Tip Sheet

Permeable, or pervious pavement, is designed to let rain pass through to soil beneath paved areas. Learn about the benefits, uses, and design of permeable pavement here. Check out cool pavement diagrams on Page 2!



"Depave" empowers disenfranchised communities to overcome social and environmental injustices and adapt to climate change through urban re-greening. "Depave" transforms over-paved places, creates resilient community greenspaces, promotes workforce development and education, and advocates for policy change to undo manifestations of systemic racism.

Harvesting Rainwater

Harvesting Rainwater

Seattle Rainwater Harvesting Guide

Seattle Public Utilities’ Rainwater Harvesting page provides a formula for calculating rainwater fall, links to useful websites, and other resources. The Northwest gets a lot of rain in the winter. We get so much that it sometimes causes problems like flooding, sewer overflows, stream erosion, and carrying urban pollution into our waterways. But in the summer we get very little rain, so it makes sense to conserve. 


Rainwater Harvesting for Beneficial Use

A good overview of larger rainwater systems intended for indoor uses, along with code and design requirements. This 11-page guide was produced by the Seattle Department of Planning and Development and includes details about permitting. 


King County Rain Barrel Information and Sources

Factsheets and suppliers to help you find or build a system, as well as learn more about rain barrels.


American Rainfall Catchment Systems Association

See links to other resources for design professionals, as well as current news on rainwater harvesting around the U.S. The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) strives to provide resources and information on rainwater and stormwater collection.


Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting 

Check out this manual to see the standard reference for professionals on designing rainwater harvesting, storage, and reuse systems.


Rainwater harvesting for outdoor use

As a part of the King County Green Building Handbook, this page includes detailed information for homeowners in particular about successfully harvesting rainwater for outdoor purposes. 

Increase the Tree Canopy

Increase the Tree Canopy

Trees for Seattle

Seattle government’s main page for tree restoration work, policies, and goals. Their “Urban Forestry Story Map” is worth a good look! 


2020 Seattle Urban Forest Management Plan

This 37-page forestry plan covers topics from current-day forestry to strategies and action items for future improvements. “Challenges of the Urban Forest” on Page 15 is a particularly interesting section, covering major problems Seattle must overcome for a healthy urban forest.


2020 Seattle Urban Forest Management Plan Executive Summary

This 6-page document provides a brief overview of action items within Seattle’s Urban Forest Management Plan.

Tree Canopy - GSI Solutions

Brief information page on about the stormwater benefits of planting more trees.

Natural Yard Care - King County 

Yards are fun, beautiful, great spaces for relaxing! They’re an easy place to control too for a big impact on local stormwater. Check out this page’s “5 Steps to Natural Yard Care” guide.

About Your Pet

About Your Pet

Scoop the Poop

Short webpage from Seattle Public Utilities offering guidance and information about what to do with pet waste. Did you know that there are more than 125,000 dogs and 60,000 outdoor cats in Seattle? That amounts to about 50,000 pounds of pet waste every day!


Coliform Bacteria in Drinking Water

Learn about coliform bacteria, organisms that are present in the environment and in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. Coliform bacteria in drinking water can be an indicator of disease-causing organisms in the water system. This page has graphics and plenty of labels to break up paragraphs! 


6,000 pounds of dog poop a day: Kirkland locked in dirty war

Abandoned dog poop and Seattle rain make a messy pair! Everytime it rains in Kirkland, bacteria from dog poop is introduced into the water. Learn more about this crucial issue in Kirkland, a city with approximately 20,000 dogs and plenty of water.

About Your Car

About Your Car

Don't Drip and Drive

Use this website to learn how to diagnose car leaks and protect the Puget Sound. Want to check your own car? It’s simple! Check out Sustainability Ambassadors’ “Dont Drip and Drive” micro-impact project. 


The Problem with Car Washing

Washing your car on a paved surface, like in a driveway or parking lot is not a good idea. The soap and grime wash off and goes straight into a nearby storm drain that connects to a lake, stream or Puget Sound. Learn more about other options on this page or through our micro impact project, “Use a Commercial Car Wash.” Copy the document and make it your own!

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