What You Can Do to Help
Some of the most common household activities can have an unhealthy impact on our water quality, from washing the car to killing weeds. Each time it rains, stormwater, or water not absorbed by the ground, carries pollutants into our waters. Here are some tips to help keep our waters clean.
Agriculture & Lawn Care
- Manage animal waste to minimize contamination of surface water and ground water, and obey local animal waste laws.
- Keep leaves, grass clippings, and other debris away from storm drains, gutters, and waterways. These outlets drain directly into lakes, streams, and rivers and can contribute to harmful algae blooms and fish kills.
- Run your mower with the vent closed. Clippings left on the lawn can dramatically reduce the need for additional nitrogen (from fertilizers).
- Choose plants, trees, and other landscaping elements that will do well in your area with little watering.
- Start a compost pile of leaves and grass clippings to serve as a naturally rich fertilizer and mulch. Otherwise, bag leaves and grass and set out for pick-up.
- Whenever possible, protect drinking water by using less pesticides and fertilizers.
- Dispose of pesticides, containers, and tanks according to directions on containers.
- If you spill an engine degreaser, oil, brake fluid, tire cleaner, or anti-freeze, do not hose it off. It will then eventually reach local streams and lakes. Instead, sprinkle sawdust, cornmeal, cat litter, or a commercial absorbent over the spill. Let soak and sweep up.
- Consider taking your car to a car wash or washing it on the grass, where the ground can absorb water and pollutants can be filtered.
- Fix any car leaks to avoid contaminating our watershed with oil. One quart of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of water.
- Dispose of oil, antifreeze, paints and other household chemicals properly and according to instructions on containers.
- Conservation & Prevention
- Save hundreds of gallons of water with ease by putting a spray nozzle on your hose and turning off the hose between rinses.
- Ask carpet cleaners, painters, and contractors how they keep pollutants from entering the groundwater system.
- Before draining swimming pool, let the water stand until it no longer contains chlorine and other pool cleaners.
- Clean and maintain boats away from water. Use a drop cloth and vacuum paint chips and dust.
- Fuel up cars and boats carefully.
Household Tips for Septic System Owners
- Flush only human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.
- Never flush diapers, wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, condoms, cigarette butts, or cat litter down your toilet—these items will not break down in the septic tank and may end up clogging the system.
- Don’t pour household additives, yeast, sugars, oil-based paints, and solvents down the drain. All of these items can harm helpful bacteria in your septic system.
- Limit use of a garbage disposal by disposing of food wastes in the trash, and avoid pouring fats and grease down the drain. Doing so will extend the life of your septic system.
- Reduce the amount of wastewater going to your septic system by taking shorter showers, running only full loads of laundry, and repairing leaks promptly. You will conserve water while preventing the flooding of your leaching field.
Septic System Maintenance
- Septic systems should be inspected at least every three years by a licensed contractor.
- When sludge in the tank reaches a certain point, the tank will need to be pumped out as recommended by your inspector.
- Never plant trees or vegetation other than grass over your leaching field.
- Avoid over-watering the grass over the leaching field—doing so will saturate the ground and reduce the ability for the wastewater to be able to percolate into the soil.
- Similarly, direct downspouts or other drainage away from the leaching field area to avoid creating overly damp soil conditions.
Find out more about What You Can Do In Your Home.