How You Can Help
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Be Part of the Solution to Urban Waters Pollution
- Use nontoxic household products. Want to reduce the number of chemicals in your home and in your waterways? Start by purchasing nontoxic household products such as nontoxic cleaning supplies, laundry products, paints, insecticides, and pool chemicals. If your local store does not carry nontoxic products, ask them to start.
- Dispose of hazardous household products properly. Don't toss hazardous household chemicals down the drain. Contact your local public works, sanitation, or environmental health department and find out if your city has a hazardous waste collection day. If your city doesn't have a local program, ask them to start one.
- Save water. Don't let the water run while brushing your teeth or washing your face. Run your dishwasher and washing machine only when they are full. Fix leaky plumbing fixtures and switch to low-flow toilets and showerheads. Changing small habits can save more than 100 gallons of water a week.
- Recycle. Deposit waste in a trash can. Never flush non-degradable products or sweep debris into the street or storm sewer. Trash can damage city sewer systems and end up littered on beaches and in your water.
- Don't flush old prescription drugs down the drain (unless directed). Wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove drugs from sewer system water and they end up in our rivers and streams.
- Don't let pollutants go down the drain, inside OR outside. Urban waters take on large amounts of pollution from a variety of sources, including polluted runoff from urban landscapes, which creates public and environmental health hazards. Remember, what goes on the ground and down your drain eventually ends up in the water. Don't dump oil, gasoline, solvents, paint, or other household chemicals down your household drains or storm drain.
- Recycle used motor oil and maintain your car. Throwing motor oil in the trash is illegal and harmful to your water source. Recycling centers and many service stations accept used motor oil for recycling. Also, be sure to keep up with regular car maintenance to prevent oil, coolant, antifreeze, or other hazardous chemicals from leaking onto the ground.
- Take your car to a car wash. A commercial car wash reclaims its wastewater using special filtration systems. This not only conserves water, but minimizes polluted runoff entering local storm drain.
- Think Green – Spring is Right Around the Corner. With spring right around the corner and lawn preparation underway, now is a good time to take a look at your yard’s watering system. You may not think of your hose and gutters as a “system” but they both can help direct water where you want it most – on your lawn and plants vs. down the storm drains. Instead of directing your gutter downspouts into your driveway or street, direct the rainwater collected by your roof to water your lawn or garden. Help your yard soak up free water, while keeping your water bill down and keeping dirty rainwater out of your local streams and rivers, like the Anacostia. Learn how to get the most out of every rainstorm (PDF) (2pp, 254K, About PDF).
- Learn about watering restrictions. Over-watering your lawn or garden can not only be bad for your plants, but it can increase the leaching of fertilizers into ground and eventually your water. Avoid watering your landscape during the hottest hours of the day (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to minimize evaporation. Don't water your lawn on windy days when most of the water blows away or evaporates. Water your plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance. Adhere to your community's irrigation guidelines.
- Use natural fertilizers. Try using a natural fertilizer such as manure, compost, mulch, or peat. These natural fertilizers should be available at your local garden supply or hardware store. You can also make your own compost, which is better for your lawn or garden and nearly free.
- Landscape with native plants and natural materials. Landscaping materials such as vegetation, gravel, mulch, and wood allows rainwater to runoff directly into the ground and seep into the soil. Use native and drought-tolerant plants in your garden that require less water and use less herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.
- Collect and reuse rainwater. Use rain barrels to capture and reuse water and/or consider planting a rain garden to naturally collect and absorb rainwater.
- You can educate others in your community. Educate family, friends, and neighbors in your community about the effects of dumping waste, such as pesticides, down drains and into waterways. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to install low flow water fixtures and to practice water conservation.
- Get involved. There are many public recreational areas that can use your help. Volunteer for a beach or park cleanup, plant a tree, or help maintain your local park.
- Support low impact development. Learn more about low impact development and how it might best work in your community. The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) Programhas lots of great information on their website.