Caring for the Truckee River: Preventing Local Stormwater Pollution
Guest writer Daniel Moss, Project Coordinator for the City of Reno's Utility Services, works to keep our stormwater, and thus watershed, clean. In this week's blog, he reflects on how a recent project to promote stormwater protection tied back to his childhood in an unexpected way. As we move into fall and hopefully a wet winter, the regional Stormwater Permit Coordinating Committee (SWPCC) has produced a pamphlet titled "Prevent Local Stormwater Pollution" (PDF downloads included at the bottom of this blog, or see the flipbook in English here and in Spanish here), to help explain our storm drain system, downstream water resources, common pollutants that can enter waterways, and what you can do to reduce your impact! Please check it out, share it, and grab a paper copy at TMPF’s Idlewild office and other environmental organizations in our region.
One of the primary missions of the SWPCC is educating Truckee Meadows
residents about the personal actions we all can take to help prevent stormwater
pollution. I brought the idea of an education pamphlet before before the committee in March 2021 and the members unanimously approved development of the "Prevent Local Stormwater Pollution" pamphlet. Personally, I had a great time helping create this pamphlet, adding some color to my routine stormwater-related duties at the City of Reno, which includes addressing citizen stormwater issues, holding educational seminars, performing construction management for stormwater projects, completing engineering plan review, and more. From this position, I get a ground view of how much work our local governments (Reno, Sparks, Washoe County, NDEP, and more) put into keeping our stormwater infrastructure and watershed as clean as possible, and for that we can all be grateful. While making the pamphlet, I found myself reflecting on my early childhood memories of rain, stormwater, and a special “engineering solution” I invented for a drainage problem in my neighborhood...
I clearly remember experiencing my first big rainstorms as a child, in the Bay Area Peninsula. Waking up to a stormy day, I'd seek out a good window, and stare at the rain splashing down in our yard, making puddles in interesting new places, turning the dusty orange leaves shiny, and transforming the mossy side of our ash tree into a dark green dripping sponge. It was only a matter of time before my brother, sister, and I would prepare to explore our rainy new world, pulling on our multicolored rain boots, jackets, and each choosing our favorite umbrella.
I tramped out ahead of the rest, down our neighborhood's endless sidewalks, listening to the rain on the umbrella, and keeping pace with the steady stream of relatively clear water in the gutter, until… I found what I was looking for: "Ah, look, a clogged storm drain! Look at the size of that puddle!" With my trusty red boots, I would wade into these behemoth six-inch-deep puddles, which backed up well into the road, and after locating the metal storm drain grates under my boots, with both feel and intuition, I set about to kicking aside mounds of matted old yellow and brown mulberry leaves (the usual culprit), until the water started to find its way down the drains. Sometimes, I could clear the whole clog with one mighty swipe, and watch the entire puddle swirl down into the unknown depths below, in a minute or less! Such strength, such ingenuity, such a good citizen, I mused to myself... and goodbye puddle!
After a few good satisfying drain uncloggings, per se, it was time to head to the creek -- a giant, 15 foot-deep concrete channel, winding below the backyard fences of the homes on the edge of my neighborhood. Peering down to see how high the water was this time around, it always struck me how chocolatey brown the creek was compared to the relatively clear water I had just spent so much effort unclogging from the streets. As I watched the flow, tennis balls, plastic cups, and chunks of wood inevitably made their way down, and I'd watch them go as far as I could, wondering what was around the bend.
I didn't know much about stormwater quality back then, and the pollutants that affect our waterways, but I think I was starting to learn as I noticed the distinctly different color of the creek and what miscellaneous items flowed down it. Fast forward 25 years and I'm a Civil Engineer in the City of Reno's Utility Services Department, where I deal with stormwater issues every day. Though Reno might not get rain as often as other places around the county, the storms and runoff we get do make a big impact. Once on the ground, stormwater pollutants (for example: car washing fluids, spilled chemicals, dog poop, fertilizer, excess sediment (dirt), et cetera) will stay put until the one storm, whether that’s tomorrow or in five months, that washes everything down to the river all at once, just like that brown creek! So, let’s work together to keep pollutants out of our storm drains, and let’s keep our Truckee River clean!
Download the 2021"Prevent Local Stormwater Pollution" Pamphlets Below!