What are some steps your business can take to improve storm water quality and how do these steps help? Click below to learn about common storm water pollution preventions steps! Act on those that are applicable for your business!

Did You Know?

The pollution preventions listed in the sections below are called BMPS (Best Management Practices). Did you know that there is a commercial storm water fee credit available for businesses that apply BMPs? If you meet the criteria specified in the Storm Water Enterprise Fund Adjustment and Credit Manual, then you could receive a credit on the storm water fee for your business while you help the environment!


Does your business have a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)? If not, perhaps you can create one! Make sure you and your employees are aware of where it is and what it’s for.

Educate employees about storm water. Many people are unaware of the problem and some of the simple solutions that they can do to help.

Property Maintenance

Whether you hire a company to landscape or do the work in-house, make sure that pesticides and lawn fertilizers are used properly! More is NOT better! Additional amounts applied are carried into surrounding waterbodies with storm water runoff. Cover manure stockpiles.

Whether you hire a company to landscape or do the work in-house, make sure that yard waste is properly disposed! It should be bagged or mulched. Ensure that it is not placed or blown into the street, storm drains, ditches, or waterbodies. The yard waste clogs the storm water drainage system when improperly placed. If the system is clogged, storm water will not flow off streets and property properly during rain events. Additionally, it can be detrimental to water quality by altering the physical substrate of watercourses and by impacting dissolved oxygen levels as it decomposes. Dissolved oxygen is the concentration of free oxygen in the water that has not been chemically combined and it vital for aquatic life to survive.  Directly placing yard waste into the storm water drainage system or waterbodies is against the law (ordinance 4538).

Good Housekeeping

Properly dispose of your trash! Keeping your trash contained is a huge step! Ensure dumpsters and other storage containers are shut and in proper working order. Having trash cans in parking lots and disposing of that trash frequently can be a great help. Make it easy for people to do the right thing by properly disposing of their trash. If possible, sweep your parking lots regularly. Our City and your business will look better and it will help keep trash from washing down storm drains and into waterways. Trash causes a lot of harm to the water, watercourses, and animals. Directly placing trash into the storm water drainage system or waterbodies is against the law (ordinance 4538).

Have cigarette butt disposal containers in designated smoking areas for customers and/or employees. Did you know cigarette butts are the most littered item in the America and in oceans worldwide? They get there because they are small and easily carried by storm water runoff to surrounding waters that eventually discharge into oceans. And they are not biodegradable. The plastic acetate filters take many years to decompose, slowly releasing toxins from the cigarettes during that process. They can also be eaten by animals and cause illness. They are litter and a BIG problem.

Quickly respond to spills. Have a spill kit on premises and make sure employees are aware of and trained to use it. Dispose of the used absorption materials properly. Improper spill response outdoors can lead to chemicals entering the storm water drainage system and our waterways. Improper spill response indoors can have adverse effects on storm water quality when the fluids and absorption materials are not properly disposed of.

Chemical Storage & Fat, Oils, & Grease Disposal

Be mindful about chemical storage and disposal! Examples of chemicals that you may find around your business are vehicle maintenance fluids, cleaning products, and paint. Some containers, such as paint cans, can rust and leak easily. If placed outside, it may be too late before you realize the problem. Place them in a sturdy plastic-type bin so that leaks are contained. Make sure that you do not pour used chemical products, or wastewater containing them, onto the ground, parking lot, street, storm drains, ditches, or waterways. Directly placing these materials into the storm water drainage system or waterbodies is against the law (ordinance 4538).

Properly dispose of cooking fats, oils, and greases (FOG).  These products should never be poured down a sink. Many businesses are required to have a greasetrap to dispose of the FOG. If yours does, use it and educate your employees on the importance of using and maintaining it! FOG clings to pipes beneath your business and in the City’s sanitary sewer system. Over time, this FOG can build up and block the pipes causing overflows that can discharge sewage into your home, neighborhood, and area lakes, rivers, and streams. The sewage is not only a health hazard to the neighborhood but it can also enter the City’s storm water drainage system.  Storm water flows from the inlets through the storm water drainage system and discharges into our surrounding waterbodies and eventually the Mississippi River. Sewage transported by storm water poses a threat to fish and other aquatic life in these water bodies.

Vehicle Maintenance & Fluid Disposal

Keep your company vehicles maintained! Leaking fluids onto streets, parking lots, and driveways get washed into surrounding waterbodies with storm water runoff. Directly placing these materials into the storm water drainage system or waterbodies is against the law (ordinance 4538). If you are a business that does vehicle repair, ensure that all of your employees are following proper protocol and understand the reason for that protocol.

Wash your company vehicles in a location or at a car wash that discharges the used water into the sanitary sewer system. Soaps that flow into the storm water drainage system are harmful to waterways. Discharges from commercial car washing that enter the City’s storm water drainage system are against the law (ordinance 4538).


Construction can have a lot of variables which affect storm water quality. If you are constructing and disturbing the land, reduce excavated dirt. Finish work quickly and ensure you have all the proper permits necessary. Follow your Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan and ensure that there is a certified Erosion Prevention Sediment Control inspector to identify areas of concerns and ways to correct them. Sediment/dirt is actually one of the most stream impairing pollutants. Soil has many different chemical properties and is easily transported by storm water. It alters watercourses and impairs waterbodies. Not taking these precautions is a violation of ordinance 4538 and violators can be subject to daily accruing civil penalties. Check out our Storm Water Runoff Control section.

Storm Water Management Structures

Sometimes commercial properties have a storm water management structure. If there is a storm water management structure on your property, please refer to our post-construction runoff control section.

Links to Regulatory:Storm water runoff control page

As a general rule remember; don’t pour anything into a storm drain! Directly placing anything other than storm water into the storm water drainage system is against the law unless exempted by the storm water ordinances. Be mindful of the problem and report violations to your City of Memphis Storm Water Department!

BIGGER STEPS- Go above and beyond!

Plant and properly maintain a garden. Plants, especially native foliage, are a natural part of the water cycle. They filter pollutants in storm water. A special type of garden is a rain garden. It is specially designed to filter storm water runoff. You can read more about rain gardens in our rain garden section. They are a very valuable asset to storm water quality when properly maintained and installed.

Collect rain water in barrels. You can use barrels to collect rain water from rooftops and you can use that rain water to water your lawn or garden. This decreases storm water runoff. Just make sure the barrels are mosquito-proof containers.

Consider permeable pavement around your business. This will allow more storm water to be absorbed and filtered through the ground.

Consider green roofs. When properly installed and maintained, a green roof is a very valuable asset to enhance storm water quality.