Polluted Runoff Control Program


The Polluted Runoff Control (PRC) Program’s mission is to protect and improve the quality of Hawai’i’s water resources by preventing and reducing nonpoint source pollution.

In order to achieve its mission, the PRC Program updates and implements Hawai’i’s Nonpoint Source Management Plan (2015-2020).

Each year, the PRC Program uses Clean Water Act Section 319(h) funds to provide grants for polluted runoff projects in Hawai’i. Please visit the 319 Grant Program page for more information.

What Is Polluted Runoff?

Polluted runoff, or nonpoint source pollution, results when stormwater or irrigation water washes pollutants from the land into streams and coastal waters. When it rains, water that does not infiltrate the soil runs over the ground and carries pollutants such as sediment, nutrients (from fertilizers), bacteria (from animal waste), toxic chemicals, oil, and trash into streams, rivers, and the ocean. Polluted runoff can destroy aquatic habitats and marine life, pose public health risks, and negatively impact Hawai’i’s economy and way of life, which rely heavily on water quality.

Photo of the Kaaawa Valley.

When it rains, water washes pollutants from Hawai’i’s ridges to the ocean. (Kaaawa Valley, Oahu)

Polluted runoff results from our activities on the land and in the water. Sources of polluted runoff include urban areas, agriculture, and cesspools. In urban areas, roads, buildings, and parking lots often 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. On farms, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and soil erosion can lead to polluted runoff problems. Cesspools, another source of polluted runoff, discharge untreated human waste directly into the ground, where it can contaminate the ocean, streams, and groundwater by releasing nutrients and disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

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)

Watershed Planning and Polluted Runoff Control

The citizens of Hawai’i have the ability and responsibility to protect their waters from polluted runoff. The watershed planning process is one way they can become involved.

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.

A watershed-based 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. The PRC Program supports and coordinates watershed planning as well as total maximum daily load (TMDL) implementation activities with partner organizations.

The following document was developed to assist groups interested in developing watershed-based plans.

About the Polluted Runoff Control Program

Hawai’i’s Department of Health Clean Water Branch administers the State’s PRC Program. The PRC Program 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 Nonpoint Source Management Plan (2015-2020). 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 five-year implementation plan.


Polluted Runoff End of Fiscal Year Reports

Polluted Runoff Resources

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.