Storm Water Permits

With the passage of the Federal Clean Water Act in 1972, the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit system was developed to control “non-point source” pollution, and in 1987 EPA expanded the scope of the NPDES permit system to include storm water. HTO REVIEWED EVERY STORMWATER PERMIT (SWMP) for Santa Barbara County – all the cities from Santa Maria to Lompoc to the Santa Barbara Airport, to ensure that the language in the permit would be tough enough to make a difference…..

HTO Storm Troopers

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During our early years, Heal the Ocean initiated a "Storm Troopers" program, wherein local students looking for community service hours called us for a Storm Troopers assignment. This involved scouting, simple inspections, photographing the location and debris; and then e-mailing the pictures to us along with a simple report. Once we received the reports, we called in pictures and location to the appropriate city or county agency responsible for cleanup and enforcement.


Some years ago, Heal the Ocean developed a model storm water catchment program that involved installation of revolutionary AbTech filters on storm drains. These filters, now in use in many cities, were created by a team in Arizona headed by Glenn Rink and former HTO Director John Robinson (now deceased), who invented the filter material that strained out hydrocarbons).

Sources of Fecal Indicator Bacteria in Urban Streams and Ocean Beaches (2009)

Dr. John Izbicki, USGS Engineer.  Photo (c) Hillary Hauser

Dr. John Izbicki, USGS Engineer.

Photo (c) Hillary Hauser

This 3-year USGS study, with contributory funding and support from Heal the Ocean through the Marisla Foundation, was completed in conjunction with the City of Santa Barbara, and offers one of the first serious examinations of the relationship between groundwater contamination and the ocean, the potential for sewer pipes (and septic leach fields) to leak into groundwater and therefore the ocean. 

Confetti in the Storm Drains!

After the Summer Solstice Parade in 2015, the storm drains of State Street were stuffed full with confetti, some of which were made out of mylar and plastic products, which would look very attractive to fish if it ended up in the ocean after a rain event.


We met with the City Creeks Division and worked out a plan to place "silt fencing" over all storm water drains before the Solstice and Fiesta parades. This program continues today!