The chemicals, garbage, and debris from our yards and gardens can impact water quality. These pollutants can impact aquatic life, raise water temperature, and can disrupt the natural balance of aquatic ecosystems. But if we put only stormwater in the drain, and follow these simple steps, we can all do our part to improve water quality.
A. Cutting the grass:
Do not blow leaves into stormwater infrastructure, including streams, catch basins, swales, and ditches.
B. Leaf management:
- Do not place leaves in catch basins and drainage ways.
- Participate in community leaf pick-up events.
C. Fertilizers/Pesticides use and disposal
- Do not fertilize your lawn prior to heavy rains.
- Contact your local cooperative extension office to have your soil tested to determine the appropriate fertilizer for your soil and the type of grass in your yard.
- Follow instructions on the labels for fertilizers and pesticides.
- For pesticides, try alternative methods.
D. Car washing:
Instead of washing the car in your driveway, consider washing your car at a commercial car wash. Commercial car washes do not drain to the storm sewers untreated.
- Limit the use of chemicals and fertilizers.
- Follow the instructions on the labels for the application and disposal of fertilizers and pesticides.
F. Pet waste management: Pet waste contributes to water pollution. In order to prevent pet waste from entering waterways:
- Scoop the poop,
- Bag it, and
- Place it in the trash.
G. Clear storm drains:
In order to reduce flooding and improve water quality, it is important to keep storm drains clear. Debris, either from litter or yard waste, can clog storm drains which can lead to flooding. H. Power washing: Wash water from power washing can contain oil, grease, chemicals, dirt, detergents and other pollutants that can pollute our streams, rivers, lakes. Best Management Practices (BMPs) to consider are:
- Dry Clean-up methods
- Mops, brooms, rags, wire brushes etc. to clean surfaces.
- Vacuum to remove loose debris before applying water.
- If you are going to use a power washer, block storm drains with an impervious barrier that does not cause flooding or impact safety.
- Never dispose of wash water into the street or stormwater drainage including drains, ditches, and streams.
- Wash vehicles and equipment at commercial car washes or over grassy or gravel areas that the wash water can seep into the ground.
- Use nozzles that minimize the amount of water that is used during power washing.
- Try non-phosphate detergents.
- Do not wash equipment or vehicles when is it likely to rain.
H. Rain gardens:
A rain garden is a shallow depression that is planted with native vegetation. A rain garden is designed to capture run off from roofs, driveways, parking lots etc. with the goal of reducing runoff from the property and pollutants entering our storm systems. Rain gardens can absorb hundreds of gallons of rain therefore reducing the amount of stormwater leaving a property. J. Rain barrels: Why use a rain barrel? The average rainfall of one inch within a 24 hour period can produce more than 700 gallons of water that runs off of the roof of an average house. A rain barrel collects water and stores it for those times that you need it the most, during the dry months. Not only do you save money on your water bill, but you also improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Generally, a rain barrel is made from a 55-gallon drum with a hose and screens to prevent debris from entering the barrel. A rain barrel will reduce the amount of stormwater run off from a property and therefore can reduce the amount of pollutants carried to our waterways. Examples of rain barrels can be found at the following two websites: Louisville MSD Rain Barrel program
and Lily Raintainers
I. Watering our yards:
- Do not over water our yards.
- Use rain barrels to collect water and use the water during dry weather.
J. Septic System Maintenance:
Septic systems that are not maintained can contribute to water pollution. Therefore, following these easy steps can benefit you and your neighbors:
- Pump and inspect your septic tank often. Pumping frequency will depend on the size of the tank and the number of people using the system. For example, a 1000-gallon tank, serving a family of four, will typically require pumping every two to three (2-3) years.
- Conserve water and fix all plumbing leaks that can overload the septic system.
- Limit the use of your garbage disposal. Consider composting as an alternative.
- Limit the use of household chemicals that can have harmful effects on the bacteria that enables the septic system to properly process human waste.
- Do not plant deep-rooted trees on or around the location of the septic tank.
- Do not pour kitchen grease down your drain.
- Do not flush cigarette butts, sanitary napkins, or household trash down the toilet.
- Do not drive heavy machinery over the leach field.
- Do not connect roof drains to the septic system or allow surface water to drain into the leach field.
- Do not drain your septic tank to any nearby swale or ditch.
Litter and debris can clog stormwater infrastructure resulting in flooding. Litter can also degrade water quality. Therefore, dispose of trash, cigarettes, and other litter in garbage cans. When appropriate recycle trash.
L. Yard Care Near Streams
For areas near streams limit the use of pesticides and leave a riparian area. Do not blow clippings and debris in the waterway as this can harm aquatic life and cause blockages in the stream increasing the likelihood of flooding. Riparian areas can also reduce erosion.
M. Pervious pavement
- Pervious pavements are a recognized runoff-reducing substitute for normal pavements in development or redevelopment of:
- Parking lots;
- Patios, etc.
- The use of pervious pavement has been found to:
- Reduce stormwater runoff;
- Reduce flooding;
- Require less land to be set aside and less cost for the development of detention/retention basins;
- Reduce pollutants in runoff; and
- Reduce thermal pollution.
- Always check your community’s building codes to see that pervious pavement is allowable. Building codes are often modified to encourage developing environmentally friendly technologies.