SWAT is a youth-leadership driven program to improve our local communities’ understanding and engagement in stormwater pollution, its sources and impacts on human health. Non-point source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems in our communities. The SWAT teams promote awareness on water quality addressing the use of garden pesticides, household products, street car washing and pet waste. They also engage in recycling systems on campus and active creekside habitat restoration, removing litter, invasive plants and introducing native vegetation to restore the natural ecosystem functions that clean our water.
The project sites are located in the East Bay. Participants come from low-income communities that live downstream from several major watersheds: Sausal Creek, San Lorenzo Creek and San Leandro Creek, extending from South Berkeley, to Oakland and Hayward. Affected neighborhoods include East and West Oakland, Coliseum Industrial, Fruitvale, San Leandro Bayfair District, Ashland, Cherryland and in general unincorporated areas near major freeways. Some of these populations have high environmental vulnerability indexes, high litter density and impounded streams or water bodies such as SanLorenzo Creek, Lake Merrit or Lake Chabot.
SWAT outcomes include engaging and empowering youth to understand, monitor and communicate the impacts of stormwater pollution from household products, car washing, garden pesticides, pet waste, oil and litter, identifying and proposing to the community strategies to reduce these pollutants and ultimately changing community behaviors that affect adversely the quality of the water resources.
EPA’s latest national water quality inventory states that runoff from urban areas is the leading source of water quality impairments to surveyed estuaries. The ways that people use their homes, gardens, cars and businesses directly affect the quality of the environment. SWAT teams’ work emphasizes pollution prevention and source reduction, over costly pollution treatment options.