Storm Water Fact Sheet


What is storm water?

Storm water is any precipitation that falls during any storm event. Complications arise when this rainwater collects oils, grease, fertilizers, pesticides, trash, and other debris as it travels along engineered and natural conveyances, eventually ending up in waters of the state. This addition of polluted water to streams has detrimental effects on the flora and fauna associated with them; not to mention our enjoyment of the serene beauty a stream ecosystem provides.

What is the difference between a sewer and storm drain?

The main difference between sanitary sewer drains and storm drains is that the contents of the sanitary sewer drain go through various treatment processes at a wastewater treatment facility in order to meet state and federal regulations regarding the quality of water being released back into circulation. Storm drains on the other hand, act as channels to funnel rainwater away from urbanized areas quickly as possible to prevent flooding and deposits the untreated water into nearby waterways. The duration between rain events, the amount of vehicle traffic, the amount of impervious surfaces, and the quantity of various debris materials lying around is positively correlated to biological and physical stream degradation.

What is UW-L doing to help reduce storm water pollution?

UW-L recognizes that its daily operations may impact the health of our watershed, and has taken action to manage storm water runoff in order to minimize any adverse effects associated with its discharge. One such action taken by UW-L has been to develop a Storm water Management Program Plan (SWMPP) in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s NPDES Phase II requirements which were interpreted for the state of Wisconsin by the WI Department of Natural Resources, 327IAC15-13. Outlined within this permit are six minimum control measures that act as guidelines for municipalities, universities, and correction institutions to follow to minimize the harmful effects of storm water runoff. The six minimum control measures are:

  • Public Education and Outreach
  • Public Participation and Involvement
  • Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
  • Construction site Runoff Control
  • Post-Construction Runoff Control
  • Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping

The actual application outlining UW-L's commitment under this regulation can be viewed at NPDES Phase II Storm water  Management Program Plan.

What types of pollutants contaminate storm water runoff?

Some common contaminates include: motor oil, pesticides, pet waste, paint, household chemicals, trash and construction debris. Rainwater comes in contact with these contaminates and washes them into the storm drain system. In addition, improper disposal of substances into the storm drain system, such as food waste, paint waste, construction material, oil, antifreeze and landscaping chemicals also cause contamination of storm water runoff.

What if there is a spill of hazardous materials?

In the event of a hazardous materials spill on campus, contact the UW-L Police at 789-9999(Emergency) or 789-9000(non-emergency). If it is safe to do so, try to prevent spilled hazardous materials from entering storm drains.

How are hazardous materials disposed?

All hazardous materials waste generated from campus operations must be disposed of through the campus Hazardous Waste Program administered by the UW-L Facilities Management Department.

What is an illicit discharge?

An illicit discharge is any discharge to the UW-L storm water system that is not comprised of runoff from precipitation (rainfall or snowfall) events. Examples of illicit discharges are wash water from clothes washing, vehicle and equipment wash water, improper disposal of paint brush rinse water, sanitary sewage, and mop rinse water.

What is a BMP?

A BMP is a best management practice for managing or treating storm water runoff. BMPs can be structural, such as a constructed wetland or porous pavement parking lot, or non-structural. Examples of non-structural BMPs include properly disposing of used oil and paint, converting land cover types to increase the capture of runoff, application of fertilizers only when the need is indicated by soil testing, and proper disposal of pet waste.