Is this an Illicit Discharge?

Find a stream with a questionable sheen? Poke it with a stick. If the sheen forms back together, you probably have an illicit discharge.

Please report any instances of illicit discharge to the Stormwater Department or Public Works. All reports will be investigated. You are our best defense against stormwater pollution.

Sump Pumps: What’s all the fuss about?

Sump pumps are commonly used to keep groundwater out of our basements. Does your property have a sump pump? Have you looked at it? Make sure you know where the water comes from (groundwater or grey water?) and where it goes. If your pump is putting groundwater into the main sanitary line, you’re gambling with fate. Putting extra water into an already full sewer pipe will create a sewer backup in your house. Roto-Rooter explains more.

Clean water can be discharged onto your property in an area where it will soak back in (garden, lawn, etc) or underground into the nearest storm drain. The City’s discharge policy details our preferred discharge locations; please note that we do not allow the curb to be cut to allow discharge into the gutter (this weakens the concrete and increases street repair costs) nor pipes to be laid across the sidewalk (creates obstacles for pedestrians).

For more information on Sump Pumps, check out these previous posts:

  • March: annual Sump Pump maintenance
  • April: Ejector Pump Vs Sump Pump
  • June: Proper Plumbing for an Ejector Pump

Fertilizer + Pesticides = $$$$

Fertilizer, pesticides, and other lawn chemicals are expensive. Save your money by following these tips:

  • Spot treat your weeds: instead of treating the whole yard, dig up or spray the root of individual plants.
  • Clean up with a broom: sweep any dry chemicals off your sidewalk, driveway, or street and back into your yard or collect it for next time. Fertilizing your pavement won’t make it grow and these chemicals will just wash away with the next rain.
  • Set your mower height at or above 3″: a taller lawn keeps the weeds from getting enough sunlight AND helps the grass develop a better root system, requiring less water.
  • Follow package instructions: if you have to apply chemicals, please read and understand package instructions before you apply. These chemicals really only work in specific seasons, on specific plants, or at controlled concentrations. You may do more harm than good by applying before a rain, during a dormant season, or overapplying.


Have an unsightly ditch? Consider a bioswale! These ditches have been designed to improve drainage, water quality, and natural habitats. They use taller (3″) vegetation to slow down the flow of stormwater which allows dirt and sediment to fall out of the flow and creates a cleaner discharge. The slower water also has a chance to seep into the ground and replenish the groundwater reservoir we use for our drinking water. Taller vegetation creates habitats for wildlife and may attract more pollinators (like butterflies, bees, and beetles). See the USDA’s guide here:

Trickle Down Thursday: Only Rain Down the Drain

Do you live near a storm drain? When you help keep it clean, you are helping to keep our rivers and lakes beautiful! Grass clippings and leaves contain nutrients; when the nutrients get to the water they feed algae. Algae takes over and kills off fish. Clean drains = clean water.

Illicit Discharge Detection & Elimination

Next time you are enjoying the river, keep an eye out for strange suds. Bright white, very clean bubbles are an indication of an illicit discharge. You may also see bubbles in large groupings, with a rainbow sheen, or smell a clean smell. Report these strange bubbles to your local stormwater manager to get a handle on where they are coming from and stop the pollution.

Tuesday Tidbit: Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are fairly common in area homes. Do you have a sump pump in your basement? Do you know what it pumps? If it is connected to the laundry, toilet, or other household “dirty” water source, the pump should discharge to the sanitary sewer. You can test your system to find out what you are pumping by running your below-grade water sources. If your pump kicks on, it might be an ejector pump. Call a professional before attempting to remove the lid and look into your pump as sewer gasses may escape into your home.

Remember: Grey water = sewer; clean water = stormwater.

Trickle Down Thursday: Rain Gardens

Spring rains can highlight many low-lying areas in our yards that don’t drain well. A rain garden can help turn that pond in your yard into something beautiful and useful. By utilizing native plants that return each year (perennials), rain gardens can attract pollinators and add to the curb appeal of your home. The Groundwater Foundation has tips for Rain Gardens here:

Trickle Down Thursday: Sprinkler Systems

This little trick can save you $$$!

Have an in-ground sprinkler system? Are you overwatering? To find out, grab an empty tin can (like this tuna can) and set it in your lawn. Let your system run for about 15 minutes and then measure the amount of water collected in the can. 1 inch of water each week is adequate for an established lawn during a dry spell. Call your lawn care professional or click here to learn more:

Trickle Down Thursday: Groundwater

Groundwater flows under all of Grand Island in a slowly moving river. This hidden resource follows the path of the Platte from southwest to northeast. It refills the Platte and Wood Rivers when the surface water is low and can draw from the rivers when surface water is high. Groundwater also feeds many of the waterbodies around town: L.E. Ray Lake, Suck’s Lake, Pier Park, Eagle Scout Park, Brentwood Lake, Rainbow Lake, Kuester Lake, and Hidden Lakes.

Groundwater levels are influenced by land elevation, rainfall, irrigation, pumping, river depth, and well use. Since the City began monitoring groundwater depths in 1967, groundwater has been shown to rise and fall in cycles. Depths have ranged from less than 5 feet to 30 feet below the surface.