Water quality is no longer an issue limited strictly to recreation or drinking water. In communities like Moline that have the benefit of being near major rivers, water quality is quickly becoming central to maintaining a quality of life. Sweeping views and local parks draw tourists and provide residents opportunities for direct contact with both the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. In this area, where the rivers are so integrated into our daily lives, it is important to protect and preserve these resources.
The City of Moline has adopted a Stormwater Ordinance to help protect the rivers that also serve as the end-point for all storm runoff we generate. Rainfall and snowmelt travels from our roofs, driveways and parking lots into ditches, gutters, pipes and ravines throughout the city. As it travels, the stormwater picks up pollutants like chemicals, auto oil, pet waste, lawn debris and fine dirt particles or “silt”.
Unlike sanitary sewage, which includes the waste from indoor plumbing like toilets, showers and washing machines, the water collected in the storm sewer does not enter a wastewater treatment plant. More than 24 billion gallons of stormwater drains directly to the Mississippi River and Rock River from the Quad Cities every year. Silt, oil, lawn waste and various chemicals stormwater picks up are then deposited right into our rivers and can have a negative impact on wildlife and their habitat, our drinking water and our recreation.
Sediment buries plant and animal habitat critical to healthy streams, lakes, and wetlands. Loss of habitat reduces the number, diversity, and productivity of plants and animals living in aquatic environments. Sediment that remains suspended in the water column reduces water clarity, inhibits aquatic plant growth, lowers the aesthetic and recreational values of water resources, and makes it difficult for some fish to find food. Suspended sediment increases the solar heating of water, scours aquatic life in streams, and clogs the gills of fish and aquatic insects. Warm water holds less oxygen than cooler water (oxygen is vital to aquatic animals) and increased water temperatures are stressful to coldwater fish such as trout. Particulate-bound nutrients, such as phosphorus delivered to surface waters by eroded soils, often cause algal blooms and alterations in the food chains, which further reduces the quality of these water resources.
This kind of pollution to our waterways is known as “nonpoint source” pollution. Although our pipes and ravines drain directly to our rivers, there is no specific point where the pollutants can be traced to. Since the pollution is picked up in practically every hard surface and gutter in the city, it is very difficult to combat the collective damaging effect on the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring cities around the country to track and minimize this kind of pollution with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).