Stormwater pollution is the biggest threat to clean water in New England today.

Stormwater pollution hasn’t always been a problem. Back when New England’s landscape was largely one of forests, fields, and meadows, the ground absorbed rain and snowmelt. That filtered it of pollution long before it drained into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean.

Today, strip malls, office parks, and other industrial development has replaced many of those woodlands and fields. With them have come watertight flat roofs, huge parking lots, and miles and miles of roads. Water rushes off these mirror-like surfaces, picking up debris, pesticides, metals, chemicals, oil, and other pollutants along the way. The result? Stormwater pollution: a contaminated soup of dirty water draining into our waterways.

In fact, some 11 million gallons of oil and gas – equivalent to the Exxon Valdez spill – run off America’s streets, parking lots, and driveways every eight months, according to the Pew Oceans Commission. Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of rain and snowstorms in New England. That will make the problem of stormwater pollution even direr.

CLF Pushes for Clean Water Across New England

The triple threat of aging stormwater infrastructure, unchecked sprawl, and climate change could wreak havoc on New England’s fragile waterbodies. CLF is not standing by as waterways from Lake Champlain to the Charles River fail to meet basic standards for public health and recreation.

CLF has tirelessly pursued new approaches to stop stormwater pollution at the regulatory and policy level. To curtail encroachment of paved surfaces, we need forward-thinking urban planning to prevent unnecessary sprawl. CLF is working on legislative efforts to improve local and regional land use planning, promote more sustainable development patterns, and ensure more innovative stormwater regulation.

We’re also working to solve stormwater pollution by increasing low-impact development. Such development is more compatible with nature’s own rhythms and more resilient to stress. Green infrastructure – permeable pavement, wetlands and stream restoration, tree replanting – allows water to percolate into the ground. There it can be cleaned and stored by natural systems. Green infrastructure often costs less than industrial stormwater management. It also creates social and economic benefits by making cities more livable.

Using a first-of-its-kind legal strategy, CLF has called for full enforcement of the Clean Water Act by forcing existing – as well as new – industrial and commercial development to install available, affordable stormwater treatment measures.

Learn more about our priority stormwater pollution campaigns below – including how you can help move our work forward.