How Runoff Affects Water Quality

How Runoff Affects Water Quality

How runoff affects water quality comes down to a few factors:

  1. What’s in the runoff.
  2. How quickly it’s moving.
  3. How concentrated the contaminants are.

Runoff Contains Contaminants

Whether you live in a city or a rural area, storm water runoff will have some level of contamination.

Contamination levels vary based on industrial activity, erosion control, and water quality standards.

The byproducts of industrial activity can seep into the water supply through runoff.

As the pollutants exit the factory through the air or wastewater, they can accumulate on the ground.

Runoff created during rain and snow events picks up these pollutants and carries them into lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Erosion Controls Slows Runoff

The better the erosion control is in an area, the slower the runoff will move. It will also absorb and filter through the soil better.

  • More permeable soils (sandy) will filter better than arid, hard-packed ground.
    • This makes it harder for contaminants to reach your water supply.
  • Vegetation on slopes also helps to slow down runoff.
    • Bushes, trees, and grasses all help reduce water contamination.

For example, areas recently affected by wildfires lose a lot of their vegetation. This vegetation is a big factor in keeping hillsides from sliding away (landslides and mudslides).

Without natural barriers, the water speeds up and drags whatever is in the soil along with it.

You end up with ash, fire suppression foam, and other substances in the area’s water supply.

How to Know What’s in Your Water

Interested in knowing what’s in your specific city’s water supply?

We can help!

We regularly study water quality in cities around the United States.

Then we take this information and turn it into straightforward water quality reports.

Finally, we offer solutions for cleaner water whether it’s on a city government level or in your home.

Ready to learn more?

Use the search bar below to find out what’s in your water. (Looking to move, but want to know how good the water is? You can use it for that, too!)


  • Does Memphis Have the Best Water? – WaterBadge

    […] Others come from pollution and factory runoff. […]

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