Water picks up particles of whatever it hits when it lands on the surface as rain (or a spray from your hose or sprinkler system). With water runoff, those particles are carried along with the water on its journey through channels to streams, rivers, lakes, or the ocean. So the particles it hits (bits of cement, pesticides, what have you) start to pollute the water we all drink and share with the plants and animals.
Because a lot of water is hitting pavement nowadays, it’s all collected and sent down drains leading (eventually) into rivers and streams. This means that a lot more water is entering these bodies of water than normal, and in a very short amount of time, leading to more frequent floods.
Polluted stormwater runoff can have serious effects on water quality, and thus, plants, animals, and humans. Stormwater picks up debris, dirt, pollutants (chemicals, fertilizers, etc.) as it travels across the earth’s surface. This water runs downhill into storm drains that carry and deposit the untreated water into larger water supplies (bays, oceans, etc.) that we use for swimming, drinking, and more.
Pesticides and other excessive nutrients deposited in water supplies can cause clouding (which means aquatic plants cannot grow because sunlight cannot reach them). Additionally, nutrient-rich waters can cause algae blooms which deplete bodies of water of oxygen making them uninhabitable for many other life forms.
Erosion is another consequence of water runoff. Erosion refers to the degradation in soil quality from water (and wind) that carry away nutrients from the topsoil as the elements travel across land.
Cement doesn’t absorb water, so anything on cement while it’s raining (oils, cigarette butts, pesticides) gets washed to the closest patch of absorptive surface (dirt) or waterway: river, creek, sewer, whatever. Either way it either pollutes the water or makes another patch of dirt unhealthy.
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