Stormwater and the Environment

Stormwater detention pond

Stormwater runoff is the leading cause of water pollution in North Carolina. As land is developed, impervious surfaces created increase runoff from rainfall or snowmelt events. Impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, sidewalks and streets prevent stormwater runoff from naturally soaking into the ground. Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt and other pollutants and flow directly to a stream, river, lake, wetland, or into a storm sewer system. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the water bodies we use for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water.
While awareness and interest in environmental protection exists at the local government and citizen level, the County’s water resources continue to experience degradation. The length and number of streams on the State’s 303(d) list of impaired waters has increased since the list was first published in 1998. Also, a 2003 assessment of the County’s 82 watersheds as part of the Wake County Watershed Management Plan rated nearly 63% of the watersheds as impacted or degraded. In recent years, an average of 27 acres of land in Wake County is converted from a natural to a developing stage every day. If not managed properly, development in Wake County could result in the further impairment of these water resources, having a pronounced impact on the quality of life in Wake County.
Increased stormwater runoff can erode stream channels, increase pollutant loading in surface waters, cause downstream flooding and prevent groundwater recharge. Protecting our water resources is vital for a variety of reasons, including ensuring an adequate supply of safe drinking water, protection of fish and wildlife habitat, human health and recreation.

Report Pollution Sources

Report a Spill
Call 911 if life, safety, health, or property is in immediate danger.

Observed spills to surface waters should be reported to the Raleigh Regional Office’s general phone line, 919-791-4200, during normal working hours and to the State’s Emergency Operations Center line at 800-858-0368 after hours, weekends and on holidays. Get more specifics here about reporting environmental emergencies.

Illicit Discharges 
Wake County Stormwater Ordinance prohibits illicit discharges with the potential to significantly impact surface waters. Illicit discharges are flows to a stormwater conveyance that are not associated with stormwater runoff or an allowable discharge.  Examples of illicit discharges include, but are not limited to, oil, antifreeze, animal waste, chemicals and septic tank discharges. To report an illicit discharge, please contact Customer Service at 919-856-7400.

For information about Household Hazardous Waste, visit the Wake County Household Hazardous Waste page.

Clean Water Begins at Home

Many things are considered pollutants including: 

  • Sediment – contact your local erosion control program to report mud in streets or offsite sediment from new development projects
  • Excess nutrients / fertilizer – minimize fertilizer use and do not apply prior to rains
  • Pet waste – pick up after your pet and properly dispose of waste
  • Yard clippings – bag your waste for pickup or compost
  • Pesticides – minimize application of pesticides and do not apply prior to rains
  • Auto fluids –  use a professional car maintenance facility or collect your waste oil and recycle
  • Car washing – use a professional car wash or wash your car so that drainage goes to your lawn not a storm drain or ditch
  • Litter – pick up litter and properly dispose