Stormwater Questionnaire

In April 2011 the RRSEP posted a survey online via the www.surveymonkey.com web site. The questionnaire was designed to gather information about the level of awareness in the Charlottesville and Albemarle County community to help gauge the effectiveness of the partnership's stormwater education activities. The survey was publicized on the RRSEP web site, at the Charlottesville Eco-Fair, and in an ad placed in the C-ville Weekly. $50 Barracks Road Shopping Center gift certificates were awarded to four people chosen in a random drawing from among the 130 people who completed the survey and provided contact information.

 The survey questions, minus the confidential demographic information we collected, are listed below, along with a brief explanation of the background and significance of the issues each question addresses.

1. Based on your current knowledge, do you think the overall water quality of the rivers, streams, and lakes in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area is:
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important

Good local water quality is essential to health and quality of life. Clean water is required for drinking, cooking, bathing, and keeping clothes dishes and homes clean. When local water is polluted, the cost of treating it for use in homes, schools and businesses becomes increasingly expensive. At some point water can become too polluted even for industrial use. Water quality is also very important for recreational uses and for the creatures that live in or drink the water.
2. How important do you think wastewater from manufacturing plants is as a source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important
Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 (and subsequent legislation)  industrial discharges have been regulated by state and federal governments. As a result, wastewater from manufacturing plants plays a relatively minor role in water pollution in the U.S. In our region, manufacturing is a minor part of the economy, which also minimizes the role of manufacturing in local pollution discharges.
3. How important do you think wastewater from sewage treatment plants is as a source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important
Wastewater from sewage treatment plants is regulated by state and federal governments. The plants are not permitted to release more than a certain amount of nutrients (phosphorous and nitrogen), bacteria and total suspended solids. For example, the Moore's Creek Waste Water Treatment plant is permitted to discharge 2,756 pounds of total suspended solids a day into Moore's Creek, but in fact, the plant typically discharges 481 pounds a day. Sewage treatment plants do contribute to water pollution, but in regulated amounts that are being reduced as plants upgrade in response to more stringent federal regulations.

4. How important do you think pollutants that wash out of the air, such as acid rain, are as a source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important

Acid rain has caused significant damage to trees and aquatic systems on the Blue Ridge, and in the Shenandoah National Park in particular, but is not a significant source of water pollution in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area. Some studies have pointed to rain as a significant source of the nutrient nitrogen, which can cause algae blooms.
5. How important do you think rainfall runoff from yards, parking lots, and streets is as a source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important
Rainfall runoff from yards, parking lots and streets can be very important source of pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, bacteria, road salt, oil and gas residue, as well as heavy metals associated with automobile tires and brake linings. In addition, summertime runoff from parking lots can cause a rapid spike in stream water temperatures.
6. How important do you think rainfall runoff from farms and agricultural operations is as a source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important
Agricultural runoff can be a very important source of pollutants such as sediment, nutrients and bacteria, as well as herbicides and pesticides if farmers do not use agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) to protect streams on their property.
7. How important do you think dirt eroding from construction sites is as a source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important
Construction activity is regulated by the state and each locality. Developers are required to install Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as silt fences and sediment basins to limit the amount of eroded soil that reaches local bodies of water, and hold soil in place with a cover of grass or other vegetation once earth-moving has been completed. Nevertheless, such controls are not very efficient, and localities are hard pressed to adequately monitor construction activity. As a result, construction sites are probably an important source of water pollution.
8. How important do you think trash that gets dumped into lakes and rivers by boaters and other recreational users is as a
source of water pollution?
a. Very Important
b. Important
c. Not Important
Paper and plastic trash is probably a greater esthetic concern than a threat to water quality. Such trash can, however, interfere with the functioning of stormwater management facility outlets and inlets. In addition, some litter, such as cigarette butts, can harm wildlife that mistake it for food.
9. Out of all of the sources of water pollution that you were just asked about, which one do you think is the most important as a source of water pollution in our area? That is, which one contributes the most to water pollution.
a. Wastewater from manufacturing plants
b. Wastewater from sewage treatment plants
c. Pollutants that wash out of the air, such as acid rain
d. Rainfall runoff from yards, parking lots, and streets
d. Rainfall runoff from farms and agricultural operations
e. Dirt eroding from construction sites
f. Trash that gets dumped into lakes and rivers by boaters and other recreational users
Rainfall runoff ("d") is probably the biggest source of water pollution in urban areas such as Charlottesville and Albemarle County's growth areas, and agricultural runoff is probably the most important source of water pollution in rural areas.
10. When you mow your grass, what do you do with the grass clippings? Do you
a. Leave them in the yard
b. Collect them and throw them in the garbage
c. Rake or blow them into a drain
d. Mulch or compost them
It is best to leave grass clippings in the yard or compost them because this returns nutrients to the soil without the use of additional fertilizer. Disposing of them in the garbage will also prevent water pollution. Dumping them down a storm drain will pollute a local body of water with decaying organic matter.
11. Approximately how often you use fertilizer on your lawn? Would you say
a. Monthly
b. Two or three times a year
c. Once a year or less

12. If you fertilize, does anyone ever test the soil in your lawn to determine how much fertilizer is needed?
a. Yes
b. No
It is best to fertilize a lawn once a year, in the fall. This encourages healthy root growth and minimizes the likelihood that fertilizer will be washed into storm drains and streams by rain. More importantly, a soil test helps insure that excess fertilizer will not be applied at any time, saving money and decreasing the possibility of water pollution. Fertilizer (nutrients) in water causes algae blooms that kill fish and other creatures by depleting oxygen levels. Call your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office for information about an inexpensive soil test.
13. Do you wash your vehicle at home, or do you take it to a car wash?
a. At home
b. Take to a car wash
c. Both at home and take to a car wash
d. Do not wash car
If you take your car to a car wash that recycles water, you will conserve water and keep detergents and wastewater out of streams. If you wash your car at home, do it on the grass where wastewater will not go down a storm drain and wash water can be filtered through the soil. Use a nozzle on your hose with an automatic shut-off and a bucket to save water. Use biodegradable detergents.
14. If you change your oil at home, how do you dispose of the used oil? Do you dispose of it
a. In a designated lawn area
b. With other garbage (dumpster, placed in trash bags with other trash, etc
c. Pour it down a storm drain
d. Take it somewhere it can be recycled (recycle center, gas station)
One quart of motor oil can pollute one million gallons of clean water. That's what happens if you dump it down a storm drain. Oil dumped in the woods or on the lawn it can pollute ground water. Please take your used motor oil to be properly recycled. Many places that sell oil also recycle it free. Check with you local auto parts supplier
15. When you walk your pet, how often do you pick up their droppings?
a. Always
b. Often
c. Sometimes
d. Rarely
e. Never
Pet waste pollutes water with bacteria and nutrients (causing algae blooms) when rain runoff carries it to storm drains or streams.Several of our streams in the Rivanna River watershed are impaired by excessive levels of bacteria.
16. If you had to pick one of the following options for where stormwater runoff goes once it enters a storm drain, would it be
that it goes to
a. The sewage treatment plant
b. A separate special sewer treatment plant
c. Nearby fields and yards
d. Closest river, stream or lake
e. Drainage pond
The runoff that goes down a storm drain usually flows untreated into the closest river, stream or lake. However, some storm drains empty into a stormwater management facility such as a rain garden or a detention pond where some pollutants will be filtered through the soil beneath the basin. However, none of the runoff in the Rivanna River watershed goes to a treatment plant.