10 Ways You Can Help Improve Our Waters

By Becky Binz, Education & Outreach Coordinator, Rock River Stormwater Group

From Rock River Coalition Newsletter Winter 2016 | Visit the Rock River Coalition Website

CaptureDid you know that actions (particularly yard care actions) we take at home have a direct impact on our waterways? When precipitation falls, water runs off of our yards and roofs, into the streets and eventually down storm drains. This runoff carries chemicals and pollution directly from our yards into the waters where we boat, swim and fish.

Luckily there are small changes we can make at home to improve the quality of stormwater runoff. Many of these changes save time and money as well! Here are 10 ways you can help improve the quality of stormwater runoff at home:

1) Build a rain garden to infiltrate stormwater onsite. Rain gardens also reduce fl ooding, provide habitat for plants and wildlife, and are a beautiful landscape feature to add to your yard.

2) Cover exposed soil with vegetation and mulch to prevent erosion. Keep soil on-site.

3) Keep grass clippings off of the street and sidewalk. Nutrients and fertilizers from grass grow algae when they are washed into streams and lakes.

4) Be conservative when watering your lawn. Over watering depletes the water supply, makes plants prone to pests, promotes weed growth and adds to stormwater runoff.

5) Use non-phosphorus fertilizers and pesticides sparingly. Many Wisconsin residents use up to three times more fertilizer than their lawns actually need. If you fertilize your lawn, follow the summer bookend rule – only fertilize on Memorial Day and Labor Day.

6) Mulch, mow or compost leaves. Leaves are nature’s mulch. Leave them on your lawn, they are a great fertilizer.

7) Wash your car at a car wash instead of in the driveway. Used water at a car wash is treated before it returns to our lakes and rivers. Water that runs off your driveway is not.

8) Pick up and properly dispose of pet waste. Pet waste can pose signifi cant health risks to our waterways by adding nitrogen and phosphorus which promote weed and algae growth and deplete oxygen in the water. 9) Apply salt sparingly to sidewalks. Shovel early and shovel often. Chloride is harmful to aquatic life and affects the taste of drinking water. Worse yet, salt doesn’t degrade over time.

10) Properly dispose of hazardous wastes like motor oil, paint and pesticides. Never dump them down storm drains. If you can’t use up or give away these items, follow proper disposal procedures listed on product packages.

The Rock River Stormwater Group (RRSG) is a coalition of ten municipalities, UW-Whitewater and WDNR representatives that work together to promote sustainable stormwater practices in the Rock River Basin. RRSG thanks you for helping to Renew the Rock by making these small changes at home. Learn more at www.renewtherock.com.