Polluted Runoff Control Program

End Of Fiscal Year Report 2014!

Polluted Runoff Control Program

What Is a Watershed?

A watershed is an area of land where all of the water flows into a common body of water. Hawai`i’s streams and rivers flow downhill, from the highest island ridges to the ocean, connecting the communities they flow through along the way.

Photo of the Kaaawa Valley.

When it rains, water flows downhill from Hawai`i’s high island ridges to the ocean, washing pollutants into the streams and rivers. (Kaaawa Valley, Oahu)

What Is Polluted Runoff?

Polluted runoff is the greatest threat to Hawai`i’s surface and ground water quality. Polluted runoff, or nonpoint source pollution, results when stormwater or irrigation water washes pollutants off the land—from farms, urban areas and construction sites—into our streams and coastal waters.

When it rains, water soaks into the ground where plant roots and soil bacteria can absorb or breakdown many pollutants. During heavy rains, water that does not infiltrate the soil runs off into storm drains, streams, rivers and eventually into the ocean. As the runoff washes over the ground, it carries pollutants—dirt (sediment), nutrients (from fertilizers), bacteria (from animal waste), oil, trash and yard waste—away with it.

Roads, buildings and parking lots prevent rain water from soaking into the ground. This increases the volume and speed of water runoff, increases erosion and washes pollutants through storm drains into streams and the ocean.

Panorama image of Wiamanalo Stream.

Stream levels can quickly rise during torrential downpours, resulting in erosion and exposed plants roots. The sediment that is washed away is a form of polluted runoff. (Waimanalo Stream, Oahu)

Cesspools can also be a significant pollutant source. In Hawai`i cesspools are commonly used to dispose of human waste in areas without a sewer system. Cesspools discharge untreated human waste directly into the ground, where it can contaminate the ocean, streams and ground water by releasing nutrients and disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

Polluted runoff increases the risk of algae blooms, fish kills and disease from water recreation; destroys aquatic habitats; and causes waters to become very cloudy. Since polluted runoff results from our activities on the land and in the water, how we use the land and water is the key to preventing polluted runoff.

Hawai`i’s Department of Health administers the state’s Polluted Runoff Control (PRC) Program.
The PRC Program in Hawai`i has evolved over the last decade under the guidance of two federal statutes:

Although these two federal statues are distinct, their environmental goals overlap. In an effort to integrate polluted runoff implementation activities under CWA and CZARA, Hawai`i established a single plan—Hawai`i’s Implementation Plan for Polluted Runoff Control (July 2000). The Plan describes a combination of voluntary and regulatory activities and programs implemented by local, state and federal agencies intended to control polluted runoff and includes a 15-year program strategy and five-year implementation plan.

Each year the PRC Program uses Clean Water Act section 319(h) funding to provide grants for worthwhile polluted runoff projects in Hawai`i. Generally the projects must address activities related to polluted runoff control as outlined in the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Management Plan (June 1996) and Hawai`i’s Implementation Plan for Polluted Runoff Control (July 2000).

Watershed Planning and Polluted Runoff Control

The citizens of Hawai`i have the ability and responsibility to protect their waters from polluted runoff. It is very important for local communities to be involved in the efforts to address polluted runoff and the watershed planning process is one way they can become involved. A watershed plan is a strategy and a work plan for achieving water resource goals for a specific watershed. The watershed planning process uses a series of cooperative, iterative steps to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objectives, and develop and implement protection or remediation strategies as necessary. PRC supports and coordinates watershed planning as well as total maximum daily load (TMDL) implementation activities with partner organizations such as Land-Based Pollution Local Action Strategy (LAS) to Protect Coral Reefs and the Ocean Resources Management Plan (ORMP) implementation work group.

The following document was developed to assist groups interested in developing Watershed Based Plans.

Polluted Runoff Control Documents

Don’t Trash Our Waves

Download a copy of the Don’t Trash Our Waves poster

thumbnail image of the 'Don't Trash Our Waves' poster.


Polluted Runoff End of Fiscal Year Reports

Polluted Runoff Resources