Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Polluted Stormwater Runoff

From the Great Lakes to Long Island Sound, New York and Connecticut are blessed with abundant and invaluable water resources. Our water resources provide drinking water for millions of residents, habitat for fish and wildlife, extraordinary recreational opportunities, and support billion dollar industries. Unfortunately, polluted runoff remains a significant threat to our treasured water bodies.

Image of a beach closure sign.

What is polluted runoff?

Rainwater and snowmelt that flow across roads, parking lots, rooftops, and other impervious surfaces can pick up harmful pollutants; such as heavy metals, oil, pesticides, and sediment. Ultimately, this polluted runoff is washed into our Ocean, lakes, rivers, and streams. Polluted runoff is one of the leading causes of pollution to our waters; degrading drinking water quality, killing fish and wildlife, and closing our beaches. According to the National Resources Defense Council, polluted runoff was the leading cause of beach closures in Connecticut and New York in 2010, causing 66% and 63% of closures, respectively.


Fortunately, there is a cost effective solution to address the problem, known as green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is a network of decentralized stormwater management practices, such as rain gardens, green roofs, trees, rain gardens and permeable pavement, which can capture and infiltrate rain where it falls. Communities across the nation have begun to successfully utilize green infrastructure approaches to manage polluted runoff.

The benefits of green infrastructure are numerous, including, but not limited to:

  • Reducing polluted runoff and improving the health of surrounding waterways;
  • Reducing flooding;
  • Saving energy;
  • Reducing the amount of water entering sewer systems, thus alleviating stress on aging infrastructure and reducing costs;
  • Increasing green spaces and habitat; and
  • Increasing property values
Image of permeable pavement.
Permeable Pavement allows rain to infiltrate back into the ground.
Image of a green roof.
Green Roofs capture rain and save energy by cooling buildings.
Image of a rain garden.
Rain Gardens utilize natural vegetation to absorb runoff.

Feature: Promoting Green Infrastructure in Suffolk County

CCE teamed up with the National Wildlife Federation and the Suffolk County Planning Commission to release a comprehensive report entitled Managing Stormwater: Natural Vegetation and Green Methodologies Guidance for Municipalities and Developers V.2.0. We also hosted a series of public education events, which included informative presentations:

Updated by bsmith 2/18/15