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 View the City's Permit

water pollution picture shows trash floating on creek water. 

Storm Water Pollution

Storm water pollution refers to many types of harmful materials that are carried by water (rain water or wash water) through the storm drain system to creeks, lakes, the Russian River and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. Storm water is not treated in any way. While the water we use in our homes and businesses drains to a treatment plant, storm water and anything else dumped or spilled outside flows into the storm drain system and directly into natural waterways.

Storm water pollution has many sources. One of the most common is the illegal dumping or spilling of wastes directly into storm drains, like pouring used motor oil or paint directly into a storm drain. Pollutants also enter storm drains when it rains; rain runs off roofs, streets, parking lots, and other paved and impervious surfaces and flows into the nearest storm drain, picking up pollutants along the way. Rain, as well as waters from hoses and sprinklers, carries detergents from car washing as well as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to the storm drain. From the storm drain, water flows directly into the nearest waterway-garbage, toxins, and all.

What is a NPDES Permit for Storm Water Discharges?

Based on nationwide studies showing storm water runoff as a major source of pollution to the nation’s waterways, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (referred to as the Clean Water Act) was amended in 1987 to include storm water runoff.  On November 16, 1990, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued rules governing the quality of storm water runoff.  These regulations require that storm water discharges be regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program that regulates wastewater discharges. 

EPA regulations require municipal separate storm drain systems which serve an area with a population greater than 100,000 to obtain an NPDES permit for storm water discharges.  The population in the Santa Rosa area served by the municipal separate storm drain system officially became over 100,000 in the 1990 census.  As a result, an NPDES storm water permit is required for the Santa Rosa area.

Santa Rosa’s first NPDES Permit for Storm Water Discharges was issued jointly to the City of Santa Rosa, County of Sonoma, and Sonoma County Water Agency by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) on March 27, 1997.  On June 26, 2003, the Regional Board issued a second five –year joint NPDES permit (Term 2). 
To carry out the permit's requirements, the Santa Rosa Area Storm Water Management Program was established. (Link to Santa Rosa's Storm Water Management Plan ) The permit and program both aim to prevent and/or reduce storm water pollution in order to protect local creeks and the Russian River from water quality impairment.