Here’s an eye-opening statistic: The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 44% of stream miles, 64% of lake acres and 30% of bay square miles are not suitable for fishing or swimming, due to pollution. If steps are not taken to preserve these valuable watersheds, access to clean water will continue to diminish.


Photograph by Pat Dye.

It’s important for communities to work together to stop watershed pollution–but what can you do personally? Here are five practical ways to make a difference:

Be chemical-wise. Everything that goes down your drains or into the ground around your home will seep into the water supply. This includes household chemicals and fertilizers. When possible, opt for natural cleaning products. If you must use a chemical pesticide or fertilizer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply it only to those areas where it’s absolutely needed. Additionally, dispose of chemicals such as paint or oils properly. Never throw them down your drain!

Know the effect of storm-water run-off. You may not think it’s a big deal that your car leaks oil on your driveway. But during a rainstorm, that oil gets washed down the storm drain and ends up in a body of water. Do your part by maintaining the access point for your storm drain.

Remove any nearby garbage or overgrown vegetation. Never use storm drains to dispose of yard waste, motor oil, antifreeze or anything else. Lastly, avoid excessive use of any chemical, including pesticides and fertilizers. These can contaminate the watershed and result in harmful algal blooms.

Take care of your septic system. If you live in a home that uses a septic tank system, regular maintenance will protect the environment and save money on expensive repairs. Have your tank inspected at least every three to five years. Make sure the system is designed so that water flows away from the drainfield. Grow grass above the system, but keep trees and shrubs away from the drainfield. As mentioned above, never put chemicals down your drain system.

Don’t litter. Most conscientious people know that throwing trash into a body of water is not the responsible thing to do. However, keeping our watersheds free of litter goes beyond that. Remember that trash gets washed into our water sources every time it rains, through storm-water run-off systems. Do your part by keeping your yard and outdoor drains clear of litter. You may not be responsible for the street and roadside near your home, but go a few extra steps by picking up trash in these areas. If everyone made an effort, very little trash would get washed into our nation’s watersheds.

Successfully repairing America’s watersheds starts with individual families. Do your part to defend your creek!

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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