| Example of a storm drain stencil to educate the public.
Because stormwater runoff is generated from dispersed land surfaces—pavements, yards, driveways, and roofs—efforts to control stormwater pollution must consider individual, household, and public behaviors and activities that can generate pollution from these surfaces.These common individual behaviors have the potential to generate stormwater pollution:
- disposing of trash and recyclables
- disposing of pet-waste
- applying lawn-chemicals
- washing cars,
- changing motor-oil on impervious driveways
- household behaviors like disposing leftover paint and household chemicals
It takes individual behavior change and proper practices to control such pollution. Therefore it is important to make the public sufficiently aware and concerned about the significance of their behavior for stormwater pollution, through information and education, that they change improper behaviors.
Phase II MS4s are required to educate their community on the pollution potential of common activities, and increase awareness of the direct links between land activities, rainfall-runoff, storm drains, and their local water resources. Most importantly the requirement is to give the public clear guidance on steps and specific actions that they can take to reduce their stormwater pollution-potential.
The benefits of public education efforts cannot be understated, especially on topics such as "nonpoint source" or "stormwater" pollution. A 2005 report, Environmental Literacy in America [PDF - 2.94 MB - 3 pp] by the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation (NEETF) found that 78 percent of the American public does not understand that runoff from agricultural land, roads, and lawns, is now the most common source of water pollution; and nearly half of Americans (47 percent) believes industry still accounts for most water pollution.
Additional information on this minimum measure, including the stormwater Phase II regulatory requirements for public education and a fact sheet on the public education minimum measure [PDF - 222 KB - 3 pp], is also available.
Key BMPs and Resources:
MS4s developing a public education program should first create a public outreach strategy. An excellent document to help MS4s develop this strategy is EPA's Getting in Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns. The additional BMPs in the next section below will help MS4s conduct different activities to educate the public.