Easy Ways to Reduce Stormwater Runoff Pollution

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Even though much of the nation is experiencing drought conditions these days, there’s a greater chance of runoff when we have quick and heavy thunderstorms since the ground is so dry.  Plus, all of the impervious surfaces (paved surfaces & developed areas) contribute to runoff of rainwater and prevent it from sinking into the ground where it could otherwise recharge our depleting aquifers.

When stormwater runs off these surfaces, it carries all sorts of pollutants with it into our streams and sewers (where it then likely discharges into our streams).  This causes catastrophes for aquatic plants and animal life, for those creatures who depend on aquatic life, and ultimately for our own health.

Here are some everyday tips to reduce stormwater runoff pollution:

Efforts to reduce the amount of pollutants that run off:

  • Never put anything into a storm drain inlet OR on your lawn/driveway/street that you would not want to drink or swim in.
  • Service your car regularly and fix leaks to prevent gasoline, oil, brake & transmission fluids, and anti-freeze from leaking onto the pavement and washing into our streams (Use absorbent materials like kitty litter or toweling to soak up any spills, then sweep up and dispose of these items properly.  Never dilute spills with water).  Recycle used motor oil at your local automotive supply shop.
  • Wash your car at a carwash since they typically recycle the water, OR wash the car on grass or gravel instead of on a paved driveway or street.  ALSO, use a vegetable-based soap such as Murphy’s Oil Soap or castile soap, not a chemical-laden car wash soap.
  • Keep litter/trash off the street so that it does not get washed or blown into storm drains.
  • Use only natural, organic fertilizers and herbicides.  Avoid applying any garden product before heavy rainfalls.  Here’s my post about natural weed killers.
  • Place dog waste in the toilet or a trash can.  Do not leave it on the lawn, in the street or disposed of in a storm drain.  Pet waste carries disease-causing bacteria and parasites.
  • Choose water-based paints and wash your brushes in the sink with water.
  • Reuse and recycle paint thinner.  Don’t pour it down the sink or drain.  Take it, along with other harmful products, to a local household hazardous waste collection site.

Efforts to absorb / capture rainwater:

  • Reduce lawn area by planting native perennial grasses and groundcover plants because their deep roots allow water to infiltrate the ground, unlike the short roots of lawn grass.
  • Aerate your lawn to improve infiltration of rainwater if you have compacted or heavy clay soil, or have a layer of thatch thicker than 1/2″.
  • Rain barrels placed at downspouts capture rainwater from your roof which can then be used to water your lawn and garden when it’s dry.  By watering your plants during the coolest part of the day, more water will soak into the ground rather than evaporate.
  • Add a rain garden where it can temporarily hold, soak in and filter rainwater runoff.  Add plants that can tolerate both standing water and dry periods.  You’ll not only create an aesthetically-pleasing environment for you, but also habitat for butterflies, birds and beneficial insects.

Source: United States Environment Protection Agency

photo courtesy of Chicago Soil & Water Conservation District

Tag(s): Going Green, Hazardous Products / Health Issues, The Great Green Outdoors, Water


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