A new poll by Earthfix suggests growing awareness in the Northwest of some of the problems associated with nonpoint source pollution- the diffuse chemicals, bacteria, and sediment carried by rainfall and snowmelt moving downstream through a watershed.
Urban stormwater runoff beat out a number of other water pollution sources as a top concern in a poll commissioned by EarthFix and conducted by Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall (DHM Research).
The poll listed a number of sources of water pollution: industrial waste, agricultural chemicals, and sewage, among others.
When asked what the most significant source of water pollution was in their state, 25 percent of people in the Northwest chose the polluted runoff from roads and paved surfaces.
John Horvick with DHM Research says in the Seattle metro area, the concern over stormwater runoff was even higher; 39 percent of respondents there identified stormwater as the top contributer to water pollution.
“Until recently, factories, point source pollution, would have been people’s number one. So this is a change. We’re seeing more and growing awareness about stormwater pollution,” Horvick says.
Residents in Idaho saw things a little differently. There, more people named chemicals and fertilizer from agriculture as the top source of water pollution. The poll had a margin of error of up to 4.9 percent.
The Environmental Protection Agency broadly identifies non-point source pollution from both rural and urban environments as the leading remaining cause of water pollution nationally, as opposed to point-source — or piped — pollution.
However, it’s difficult to narrow down further what the top sources of water pollution are in the Northwest. EPA databases don’t list top pollution sources for Oregon or Washington. In Idaho, agriculture, hydromodification (dam construction, channelization, and water diversions), and habitat alteration are listed as the top causes of impairment to rivers and streams.