Stormwater management

labeled storm drain (11K)

What is stormwater runoff?

Stormwater runoff can be loosely defined as rain that hits the ground and then eventually finds its way to the nearest water body. On the UW Seattle campus, stormwater falls on buildings, roads, parking lots, sidewalks, loading docks, and landscaped areas. Some of it soaks into the ground, but most of it flows to the nearest storm drain.

Where are the storm drains, and where do they go?

another storm drain (8K)You'll see these storm drains everywhere - along roads, in parking lots, near buildings. Some are round, some are square, and some are long and skinny. Most are marked with the words "DUMP NO WASTE - DRAINS TO LAKE" and a picture of a fish. All of these drains connect to pipes underground that then carry the water straight (more or less) to the nearest water body.

What are the problems with stormwater runoff?

Urban storm water runoff in general has been identified as a major problem for water quality nationwide. Urbanization alters the infiltration capability of soil. Instead of forests and meadowlands, we now have rooftops, roads, and parking lots with virtually no ability to absorb stormwater. The resulting stormwater flows are higher in volume.

Stormwater also suspends and transports pollutants on those surfaces. It is important that we keep as much of those pollutants out of the storm water as possible. The main concerns on campus are oil, sediment, nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), heavy metals, toxic chemicals and garbage.

What can I do?

Here is a list of things that you can do to minimize your impact on stormwater while on campus (or anywhere you are):

  • do not litter (even cigarette butts)
  • do not dump any chemicals down a storm drain - "nothing but rain"
  • ensure that your car does not leak oil or gasoline (or consider alternatives to driving)

How do I report a spill?

If you see a spill on campus and it looks like it will reach a storm drain, call 206.543.0467 (the EH&S "Spill Hotline") during business hours. If you see the spill after hours, call 911 to report the spill.

If you see a situation on campus that could likely cause a spill in the future, call EH&S at 206.543.0467 during business hours. EH&S appreciate any help with identifying problems, and your call can be anonymous.

Outdoor cleaning projects

Some maintenance and cleaning projects generate waste water. These projects include masonry restoration, building pressure washing and painting with latex paint.

This waste water may under no circumstance be allowed to go to a storm drain. Only water may go down the storm drain. Even "biodegradeable" cleaners are not allowed. Excessive sediment should also not be washed into the storm drain. The storm drain delivers water and any pollutants straight to the nearest water body. In most locations, you would essentially sending water straight to the lake.

The waste water must instead be collected and either discharged to sanitary sewer or disposed of as hazardous waste.

If you do plan to discharge to sanitary sewer, see our webpage on what may go to sanitary sewer. Waste water with toxic cleaning agents may have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Corrosive cleaners, such as those used on masonry, will have to be neutralized first. High loads of suspended sediment are also not allowed to sanitary sewer. Refer also to the EH&S Design Guides for more information about waste water disposal.

Stormwater Management Program

The University of Washington has Stormwater Management Programs for the Seattle and UW Bothell/Cascadia Community College campuses because the UW owns separate storm drainage systems at both locations. Students, staff, faculty and the community are welcome to provide input into these programs, which are designed to protect stormwater quality. The plans are updated annually.

Annual reports are also available below.

One requirement of the permit is an Operations and Maintenance Plan detailing procedures for protecting stormwater quality. These O&M Plans are below:

If you have any comments, suggestions or questions on the programs or stormwater management at the University of Washington, please email us or call 206.616.5835.