The Charles River is a key asset to our community life, along with other water assets, such as Sawins and Williams Ponds. For the Charles and the ponds, polluted stormwater is a major, ongoing cause of contamination.
Stormwater comes from rainfall and snow melt -- they sound so pure, don't they? But in a town like Watertown, not enough stormwater soaks into the ground, which would filter and clean the water. Instead, most of it flows across roofs, streets, and parking lots, and all along the way it washes litter, spills, dirt, and chemicals into our storm drains, which dump it straight into our ponds and the Charles River -- unfiltered.
That's the problem. We have too much pollution flowing through the storm drains so that levels of bacteria pollution are still too high in some outfalls. And the stormwater regulations we have to comply with are becoming more stringent.
We aren't alone. Cities and towns everywhere are facing this issue. While many major sources of water pollution have been reduced (such as untreated discharges from factories), stormwater management has lagged behind so that now it's one of the last remaining major problems.