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Often when people think of pollution they think of sources such as factories, power plants and sewage treatment facilities. Unlike pollution from factories and sewage treatment plants, non-point source pollution comes from many different areas with no particular place of origin.
Rather than coming from a singular place, Non-Point Source Pollution is caused by the accumulation of pollutants as stormwater runoff moves across the landscape. As the runoff travels, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, ultimately depositing them into lakes, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.
Native vegetation and wetlands are present to intercept and slow the flow of water as it travels through the watershed, removing sediment and allowing large quantities of water to enter the soil and percolate into the groundwater or aquifer. Most human activities and development have the potential to adversely affect the overall health and quality of a watershed.
When viewed individually, most human activities have little effect on the general health of the watershed. However, the effects of numerous activities within a watershed are cumulative and when combined can greatly diminish the watershed's overall health. As people place more demands on a watershed, greater efforts must be made to reduce these cumulative effects. This will require communities to work together to ensure that activities do not negatively impact those downstream.