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Storm Water Pollution Prevention

Learn about storm water pollution, and how you can help keep the Rio Grande clean.

Report Illegal Storm Drain Dumping

You can report illegal storm drain dumping online or by telephone:

Download the Stormwater Quality Team Fact Sheet.

What is storm water?

Storm water is water from precipitation that flows across the ground and pavement when it rains or when snow and ice melt. The water seeps into the ground or drains into what we call storm sewers. These are the drains you see at street corners or at low points on the sides of your streets. Collectively, the draining water is called storm water runoff and is a concern to us in commercial and industrial sites as well as your neighborhood because of the pollutants it carries.

Where does the storm water go after it drains into a storm drain?

Storm water that does not seep into the ground, drains into systems of underground pipes or arroyos and may travel for many miles before being released into the Rio Grande.

Did you know that not all substances that enter storm drain inlets in the streets can be removed by a treatment process before entering the Rio Grande?

Those substances that enter the storm drain system are not treated at all! Anything poured into a gutter or a storm drain, such as used motor oil or antifreeze, flows directly to the Rio Grande, usually via neighborhood arroyos.

What are common contributors to storm water pollution?

When it rains, oil, antifreeze, detergents, pesticides and other pollutants get washed from driveways, backyards, parking lots, and streets into storm drains and then directly to the Rio Grande untreated! The following items specify everyday pollutants occurring at our homes, businesses, and construction sites


  • Pet waste left on the ground gets carried away by storm water, contributing harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses to our river. Please clean up after your pet.
  • Vehicle fluids such as oil, gas, and antifreeze are the #1 surface water quality problems nationwide. Recycle used oil in a clean, sealed, plastic container. Call Environmental Health at 768-2600 for a list of collection sites that accept used oil or for answers to questions regarding proper disposal of other chemicals.
  • SWEEP! Hosing off pavements washes pollutants into storm drains leading straight to the river. If water enters a public street or storm drain you are violating City Ordinance and could have a fee added to your water bill.
  • Deliver old paint, pesticides, solvents and batteries to any of the available hazardous waste drop off facilities. Call (505) 349-5220 for more information.
  • Street litter such as styrofoam, plastic, and paper can be prevented from blowing into inlets by keeping trash bins covered and by not littering. Remember, Albuquerque can be very windy!
  • Yard waste such as grass clippings, tree trimmings, and leaves can be composted and used for fertilizer around the yard. Call the Bernalillo County Extension Office at (505) 243-1386 for tips on composting.


At industrial sites, chemical spills that contain toxic substances, smoke stacks that spew emissions and uncovered or unprotected outdoor storage or waste areas can contribute pollutants to storm water runoff. Best management practices include:

  • Washing vehicles or equipment in wash bays hooked up to the sanitary sewer. Don't wash off detergents, oils, and greases into streets or storm drains.
  • Divert rainfall runoff from fueling islands by building a canopy or cover over them.
  • In compliance with Fire Code, any barrels containing potentially hazardous liquids should be in a sealed container, stored inside a building or under cover, and propped up on pallets with secondary containment in case of a spill. Call the Fire Department at 888-8124 for code specifics.
  • Waste and processed water of any type must be discharged to the sanitary sewer. Discharge of waste water to the ground or storm drains is prohibited.
  • SWEEP! Hosing off pavements washed pollutants into storm drains leading straight to the river. If water enters a public street or storm drain you are violating City Ordinance and could have a fee added to your water bill.
  • Be sure to know spill cleanup procedures. Have cleanup materials nearby with a spill prevention plan prepared and procedures known by all employees.


  • Waste from chemicals and materials used in construction can wash into arroyos leading to our river during rainy weather. Soil that erodes from construction sites can contribute to environmental degradation. Listed below are other harmful contributors from the construction site.
  • Sediments and other debris clog fish gills, damage fish habitat and block the light needed for the plants to survive.
  • Wash waters from concrete mixers should be disposed of back at the contractors site or a large hole, big enough to contain all the wash waters. Never rinse out concrete truck chutes with a hose and allow to run down the street gutter into the storm drains.
  • Waste storage for used oils, solvents and other hazardous fluids must be under cover with secondary containment in case of a spill and to prevent rainfall from contact which would wash hazardous fluids into nearby waterways.
  • Landscaping and earth-moving pollutants include planting, excavation, tilling, masonry and concrete, solid wastes such as trees and shrubs, soil additives and re-vegetation of graded areas, all contribute to soil erosion. Silt fences to hold back loose soil and sand when it gets windy allows sand and soils to stay out of street gutters where rainwater can wash it into storm drains.
  • Vehicle and equipment maintenance becomes a significant factor when engine repairs or preventive maintenance such as changing oil and other fluids occurs at the construction site. Maintain a "dry site" by using off site facilities, performing work in designated areas only, providing cover for materials stored outside, containing and cleaning up spills immediately, and training employees and subcontractors.