Stormwater Information and Resources

Debris, chemicals, and solutions contained in runoff water enter storm drains and local water ways, untreated. It is imperative to limit the amount of pollution to keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy.

Choose a category below to explore related stormwater information and resources.

Urban runoff is one of the top sources of pollution to rivers and streams. According to the EPA, 70% of pollution to the surface waters comes from storm runoff. Other independent studies have shown that 50% of this pollution if from homeowners and individuals as a result of yard maintenance, landscaping waste, and chemical pollution from the household. In order to reduce the amount of sediment and toxins that reach the rivers and streams, creating an eco-friendly landscape at home is a necessity.

Drought resistant plants, permeable soil, water conserving irrigation, and surrounding surfaces that direct rain water to the plants. The strategies below can be used in a home or commercial landscape to ensure that runoff is minimized and water is conserved:

Utilize Rainwater

Create a system to collect or redirect rainwater that ensures the landscape is completely preventing storm runoff from carrying debris and toxins into the rivers and streams. There are many options depending on the design of the landscape. Collecting rainwater in barrels, using chains instead of downspouts to slow the flow of rainwater and reduce erosion, or having a large tree or shrub that will retain a lot of water are all options.

Permeable Soil

The first step in creating a landscape that will prevent stormwater runoff from carrying sediment and waste to the rivers and streams is laying down a base of permeable soil. Permeable soil allows storm water runoff to seep into the landscape instead of washing over the yard and carrying debris into the storm drains. Depending on the current soil type in the area, creating a permeable soil base could include rototilling the area, laying down mulch, paving patio and driveway areas with a permeable concrete, asphalt, or natural gravel, or a combination of all these practices. Laying down mulch will also increase water savings. For every 1,000 square feet of area that is irrigated, mulch can save 20 to 30 gallons each time!

Drought Resistant and Native Plants

The second step to creating a stormwater friendly landscape is to plant drought resistant and native plants and efficient irrigation. Native plants are adapted to the climate and area of the landscape and will not need excess nutrients or pesticides to thrive. Drought resistant plants maximize irrigation and conserve water. It is estimated that for every 1,000 square feet, native plants will save 30-60 gallons of water as compared to nonnative plants.

Efficient Irrigaiton

It is optimal to have the landscape primarily irrigated through rain water, however, if the climate does not allow for that, a drip irrigation system is the best way to irrigate the eco and stormwater runoff friendly landscape. Adding a weather based controller or rain shut-off (or both!) to the system means that the landscape is only irrigated when needed, which saves water. The drip system doesn’t flood the landscape and contribute to runoff and promotes the healthy growth of the plants.

If you are interested in converting your yard areas into an ecological and stormwater runoff friendly landscape, see the links below for resources on Water-Friendly Landscaping!


Stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of water pollution, not only in California, but across the nation. Human activity has been shown to worsen the quality of stormwater runoff through the introduction of oils and grease, metals, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria from pet waste, and many other harmful substances associated with human activity. One of the most effective methods for improving the water quality of tomorrow is by educating the children of today. As parents and teachers we can have a tremendous impact on the behaviors of future generations simply by educating our youth and showing them how their behaviors can affect the environment around them.


Illegal Dumping and Safe Trash Disposal

Madera County spends approximately $750,000 to $1 million per year collecting roughly 1,500 tons of illegally dumped material. Do your part to deposit trash in its proper place so that these funds will be directed to vital community services. It is illegal to dump trash on roadsides, vacant lots, in canals, along creek banks, or in open space areas. Fines for illegal dumping can range from $250 to $1,000.

Backyard burning is the burning of trash by residents on their own property. Paper, cardboard, food scraps, plastics, yard trimmings, furniture, and more are being burned instead of being recycled or sent to a landfill where the trash may be properly disposed of. Burning occurs in a burn barrel, homemade burn box, wood stove, outdoor boiler, or open pit. Dangerous air emissions from backyard burning are released directly to the atmosphere without being treated or filtered.

Below are several options to dispose of your trash in a safe way:

Pet Waste Disposal

Pet waste pollutes stormwater runoff and causes water quality to decrease. During a storm, pet waste that has not been properly disposed of is very quickly dissolved and washed away into storm drains which drain into local water ways. It may require more than one year for dog waste to decompose completely. In this time, the waste can be washed into the storm drains and into our local water supply.

Pet waste contains bacteria and excess nutrients that harm wildlife living in and near local water ways. Fecal coliform, the bacteria found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, exists in dog waste in amounts almost twice as high as humans. When this bacteria is introduced into local sources, it may cause disease and illness. Pet waste may also contain a variety of other bacteria and viruses. When humans come in contact with these, they are likely to become ill with symptoms, including abdominal cramps, fever or coughing. It is very important to make a habit of picking up pet waste and disposing of it in the garbage, or down the toilet to keep homes and community safe and healthy.

Fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides have various ecological effects, toxicities, and chemical fate and transport based on the product’s chemical components. Depending on the chemicals’ characteristics, they can have unintended harmful effects on terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals, and can end up in our soil, water, and air.

Practicing proper fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide application reduces the risk of these materials being transported by stormwater to downstream water bodies. Minimizing chemical use by employing Best Management Practices (BMPs) for both application and material handling helps to eliminate a significant cause of stormwater pollution. Some BMPs have the potential to reduce costs associated with grounds keeping and maintenance, while improving the aesthetics and vegetative health of grounds where they’re implemented.

Preparation and Handling BMPS

The following guidelines should be followed when preparing and handling chemicals:

  • Select the least toxic products available to minimize waste and applicator exposure.
  • Use products only as directed, reading and following all labels.
  • Inspect, maintain, and calibrate equipment used for mixing and application.
  • Prepare only as much herbicide/pesticide as is needed and use the lowest rate that will effectively control the pest. Record the amount of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used for future reference.
  • Be prepared with cleanup materials to cleanup spills immediately; use dry cleanup methods (e.g. squeegee and dust pan) rather than hosing down the spill site.
  • Close containers tightly after each use, even if planning to reopen them soon.
  • Store chemicals safely in a ventilated, well-lit area that is away from drinking water wells or any other permanent or intermittent water bodies.
  • Triple rinse containers, and use rinse water as product. Dispose of unused pesticide as hazardous waste.
  • Monitor all fertilizer/pesticide application quantities and sites in order to provide guidance for future treatments.
  • Keep products in their original containers and mark the date of purchase on each container. Use older materials first.
  • Do not mix or prepare pesticides for application near storm drains.
  • Purchase only the amount of pesticide that you can reasonably use in a given time period (month or year depending on the product).
  • Dispose of empty pesticide containers according to the instructions on the container label.

Chemical Application BMPS

The following guidelines should be followed when applying chemicals:

  • Consider having the soil tested before applying fertilizer in order to determine what nutrients must be added.
  • Avoid application over impervious surfaces; sweep granular fertilizer back onto the grass to prevent it from washing into the storm sewer system.
  • Apply when calm, dry weather is in the forecast to prevent drift and wash off. Lawn fertilization programs should begin in fall, not in spring; this will prevent shallow root growth. Tree and shrub fertilization programs should occur in late fall or early spring when the plants are dormant.
  • Do not apply to bare or eroding soil.
  • Do not apply near water systems such as streams and lakes unless the product is specifically designed for use in shoreline or aquatic environments.
  • Do not apply near wells.
  • Do not over fertilize. Too much nitrogen will cause plants to grow shallow roots creating a less hardy landscape (e.g. especially bad for athletic fields and parks) that requires more watering. Healthy trees and shrubs do not require annual fertilizing.
  • Consider causes such as poor soils, insects, disease, or current weather patterns before applying fertilizer as a remedy for poor growth.
  • Use pesticides only if there is an actual pest problem (not on a regular preventative schedule).
  • Do not apply pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers during irrigation or within 48 hours of predicted rainfall with greater than 50% probability as predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • Limit or replace herbicide and pesticide use (e.g., conducting manual weed and insect removal).
  • Only apply pesticides when wind speeds are low (less than 5 mph).
  • Employ techniques to minimize off-target application (e.g. spray drift) of pesticides, including consideration of alternative application techniques.
  • Fertilizers should be worked into the soil rather than dumped or broadcast onto the surface.
  • Sweep pavement and sidewalk if fertilizer is spilled on these surfaces before applying irrigation water.
  • Reduce mowing of grass to allow for greater pollutant removal.
  • Keep grass clippings and leaves away from waterways and out of the street using mulching, composting, or landfilling.

Uncontrolled stormwater runoff from construction sites can significantly impact water quality within Madera County. As stormwater flows over a construction site, it can pick up pollutants like sediment, trash, and chemicals and transport them to storm drains or directly into streams and rivers. In an attempt to limit the amount of construction generated pollutants from entering local waters, the County of Madera is working with contractors to ensure the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) at all construction sites. Best Management Practices are structural and/or behavioral tools that can be used to prevent pollutants from being mobilized in stormwater.

For additional information regarding BMP selection, installation, implementation, and maintenance, please visit the California Stormwater Quality Association website ( or follow the links below to a specific CASQA BMP Handbook. Please be advised that both the Construction and Industrial & Commercial Handbooks require an active CASQA membership to view or download.