Storm Water

In undeveloped areas, precipitation typically soaks into the ground. When buildings, parking lots, roads and other hard surfaces are added to the landscape, the ground cannot absorb the water. Water from rain or snow storms, known as storm water, instead flows over streets, parking lots and roofs and into a water body or storm drain. The water then gets carried to a creek, stream, bay and eventually out to the ocean, carrying whatever was on the ground with it. Human activities often result in depositing pollutants into the environment. Once these pollutants get into the water cycle they never leave - - therefore it is important to try and reduce the amount of pollutants generated.

Cal Poly Humboldt is regulated under NPDES or National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II requirements developed by the U.S. EPA. These regulations designate the university as a small MS4 or Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System- and require the development of a Storm Water Management Program (SWMP) which shall be implemented as a mean of reducing the discharge of pollutants generated campus-wide to the “Maximum Extent Practicable” or MEP, and helping to protect overall water quality of local waterways. Implementation of the management plan shall satisfy the appropriate water quality requirements of the Clean Water Act and those of the Regional Water Quality Control Board Basin Plan.

Simple Things You Can Do to Help Reduce Pollutant Generation and Improve Water Quality

  • Keep your vehicle maintained and leak free. When pumping gas…make sure you tip the nozzle down and jiggle it a bit before pulling it out to avoid drips on the ground.
  • Use a car wash instead of doing it at home. All that soapy water and dirt will get captured appropriately vs being sent down the street and into the storm drain. If you must wash your vehicle at home, park it on the lawn, that way the water gets absorbed.
  • Clean up pet waste and encourage others to do so as well.
  • Do not litter, spit out gum, put out cigarettes or dump beverages on the ground. It may not seem like a big deal, but the behaviors of millions of people add up to a huge global problem.  
  • Keep trash cans closed, do not store paint cans or other chemicals outside where the rain water can get on them.
  • Keep dirt piles covered and dispose of lawn clippings, weeds and leaves in green waste containers. You can also leave lawn clippings on the lawn (which acts as a fertilizer) - just make sure they don’t get into the street gutter. All of these materials including grass clippings contain phosphorus. According to the U.S. EPA, phosphorus is one of the most troublesome pollutants in storm water runoff and it is considered the primary cause of water quality problems in our lakes, ponds and streams.

Learn more here.

Trash Control

Trash has become a serious problem for water quality. Cal Poly Humboldt will soon begin implementing trash reduction practices in order to help the statewide effort to reduce trash in the waterways. Learn more about the impact of trash and why Humboldt needs to comply with the required amendments.

Low Impact Design

The EPA currently uses the term green infrastructure to refer to the management of wet weather flows using engineering controls and development design that mimics natural processes that lead to infiltration of water back into the earth, such as with Low Impact Design development techniques or LIDs.


 LIDs are structures like rain gardens that work to help reduce sheet flow of water, which is what occurs when you create a bunch of impervious surface like parking lots and direct the water to be stored and metered out over time or infiltrates it back into soil, recharging ground water.  LIDs provide habitat, flood protection, cleaner air and cleaner water.


Cal Poly Humboldt’s EH&S department and Facilities Management partnered with the City of Arcata to apply for Prop 84 grant money in order to install LID infrastructure on campus. Campus LID improvements have been implemented in multiple parking lots campus wide: two spots in the lot of Union and 17th, two sections of the library parking lot and the 14th and B-street lot.  


Cal Poly Humboldt's EH&S Department is constantly seeking opportunities to reduce impact to surface water. Current projects include reducing all storm water runoff from the Telonicher Marine lab property in Trinidad, Ca thereby reducing all storm water impacts to the ASBS(Area of Special Biological Significance), which is impacted by the outfall. Humboldt was awarded Prop 1 grant money, as a sub-awardee with the City of Trinidad to complete this project. This project is slated to be completed Summer 2020!!