Did you know that a typical city block generates more than five times as much rainwater runoff as a forested area of the same size? This is because rooftops and pavement don’t allow water to soak into the ground like forests, wetlands and grasslands do. Instead, rainwater runs off pavement into the nearest storm drain, where it’s transported to local streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. On its way to the storm drain, rainwater picks up pollutants like oil, antifreeze, pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides. In most places, storm water does not get treated, so all ofthose pollutants end up in local waters.
Give these tips a try to protect water quality where you live:
- Don’t over-water your lawn. Over-watering can increase the flow of fertilizers deep into soils and eventually groundwater supplies, which are an important drinking water source. Walk on your lawn to find out if it is thirsty – if your footprints remain, it is time to water.
- Wait for dry weather. Check the forecast before applying fertilizers, pesticides and other lawn care chemicals.
- Pick up trash and pet waste. Make sure your trash always goes in the trash can or recycle bin. Put pet waste in the trash or flush it down the toilet. When walking your dog, try to stay away from streams and other waterways. Walk your pet in grassy areas instead.
- Use rain barrels. Rain barrels are a great way to catch rain water off running off of your roof. Instead of flowing to the storm drain, the water collected can be used to water garden plants or wash windows and cars. Be sure to check local regulations before installing a rain barrel – some areas have laws that prohibit them.
(Sources: EPA, “Nutrient Pollution”, http://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/;
EPA, “Act: In and Around Your Home”, http://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/whatyoucando/act_inhome.html;
EPA, “Monitoring and Assessing Water Quality”, http://yosemite.epa.gov/water/volmon.nsf/Home?readform)