You are here: Home Education Polluted Runoff

The Problem of Polluted Runoff in Puget Sound

Polluted Runoff: The #1 unaddressed problem facing Puget Sound waters.

Polluted Runoff: The #1 unaddressed problem facing Puget Sound waters.


Polluted runoff is an almost invisible problem. It doesn’t have the media visibility of greenhouse gas emissions, the smell of raw sewage outfalls, the eye-sore of air pollution, or any other obvious symbols of its disastrous effects on our quality of life. The signs are there and sadly, there are many of them. However, they seem unrelated to one another and are treated systematically, rather than systemically.

Steve Spring | Marine Photobank

Every year, an estimated 26,600 gallons of stormwater fall on a single home and with an estimated 4.5 million  residents in the Puget Sound region, 14 MILLION POUNDS of toxic chemicals enter Puget Sound waters annually.

Puget Sound region we know today is very different from the Puget Sound of the past.  Despite the beautiful views we enjoy every day, it is only a fraction of its former self. Since European settlement, the way land is used has  changed dramatically. We have lost from 30% to 100% of our wetlands in some urban areas. At least 75% of Puget Sound’s saltwater marshes have been destroyed. These natural rain water drainage systems have been replaced with roads, parking lots, housing developments, and shopping malls.

Rain that was previously held by trees and filtered by native soils now runs off these non-porous surfaces, carrying with it oil, grease, pesticides, and other pollutants it encounters on its way to Puget Sound.

This hidden, yet monstrous problem is hurting our health, our livelihoods, our wildlife, and our future. Polluted runoff or “stormwater” represents the single largest source of pollution in Puget Sound waters.

California Department of Water Resources

Polluted runoff is responsible for:

  • Destroying salmon runs
  • Closing commercial shellfish beds
  • Flooding
  • Diminishing aquatic habitats
  • Contaminating the seafood we eat Costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in stormwater management
  • Many other problems

People For Puget Sound at WEC cares about polluted runoff because we want people to be able to eat the seafood from our waters. We want people, plants, and wildlife to be free from preventable diseases. We want our local economy to flourish. We care because we want the Puget Sound region to stay beautiful and we want our children to have the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy this amazing place we call home!