Reducing water pollution

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  • Reduce the amount of runoff that comes from your property. Reducing runoff pollution actually has two components: improving the quality of runoff and reducing the quantity.
  • Maintain your vehicle. You can see the stains from leaky cars all over any parking lot. The chemicals--motor oil, transmission fluid, and antifreeze, just to name a few--almost always get washed directly into the nearest river or body of water. Have your vehicle regularly serviced and immediately repair any leaks you notice. Driving less or getting rid of your car entirely will do a tremendous service to the environment.
  • Minimize your use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. The chemicals you spray or spread on your home, lawn, or garden don't stay there. Traces of these poisons get washed into storm drains with rainwater or snow melt.
  • Replace your lawn and high-maintenance plants with native plants. Lawns require a lot of water and, generally, a lot of chemicals. The same can be said for many other plants that aren't necessary suited for survival in your yard.
  • Properly store and dispose of chemicals. Many household chemicals and automotive products are extremely toxic both to humans and to other organisms. Protect water quality by making sure these chemicals are stored in tightly sealed containers and that they aren't exposed to extreme temperatures. Clean up spills carefully, rather than leaving them on the ground or washing them into the street.
  • Clean up pet waste. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria and other pollutants. While a good rain storm may wash your dog or cat's poop away, it isn't really gone--it's in the water supply.
  • Contain and/or compost yard waste. Yard waste that sits around can easily wash into storm drains when it rains. Even if the waste doesn't contain chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides, the introduction of large quantities of sticks, leaves, and grass clippings can overwhelm waterways with unhealthy quantities of nutrients.
  • Pick up litter and properly dispose of trash. Litter isn't just unsightly; it can also contribute to water pollution. Just about every material--from paper to cigarette butts to aluminum cans and old appliances--contains chemicals that can leach out into the environment. Everybody knows that littering is a no-no, but it's important to understand that trash or junk sitting in your yard can be just as harmful as trash illegally dumped by the side of the road.
  • Avoid using salt to de-ice walkways. In colder climates, salting walkways and driveways is a common practice. It's so common, in fact, that freshwater streams and lakes in these areas have been found to have extraordinarily high concentrations of salt--high enough to kill off fish and other aquatic organisms.
  • Maintain your septic system. If you have a septic system, have it regularly inspected and maintained. Overloaded or improperly functioning septic systems can spew raw sewage directly into bodies of water or can contaminate groundwater. Most septic systems should be pumped every 2-3 years.
  • Maintain a vegetated buffer between your yard and bodies of water. If you live near a body of water, keep or plant a buffer of vegetation to capture runoff from your yard. Don't mow your lawn all the way up to the shore, and seriously consider replacing a lawn buffer with native plants.

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