Stormwater pollution prevention is easy and it starts at home! Much of the harmful sediment, detergents, chemicals and nutrients that pollute our water come from residential areas. Keep these things out of the stormsewer and keep them out of the gills, stomachs, and systems of the aquatic animals, plants and people. Pollution treatment systems are important, but what is better is no pollution to treat!
1. Wash cars at a carwash instead of your driveway. Pollutants such as rust, road salt, engine grime, degreasers, soap and wax washed off your car will go down into the sewers. In a carwash lot the waste water will be treated at a water treatment plant, whereas it will receive no treatment if it released down the stormwater sewer. Alternatively, wash your car with biodegradable soap over your lawn.
2. Keep your car running clean(er). By ensuring your car is in good condition you are ensuring that no oil, gas or other fluids are dripping from your driveway, into stormwater sewers and then into our rivers and streams. If your car is leaking place cardboard or kitty litter to catch the drips and fix your car as soon as possible.
3. Bike, walk or use public transport. Less cars on the road means less pollution washed into the streams and rivers.
4. Reduce your salt use. Melting snow and ice carry a winter's worth of road salt into storm-sewers and then rivers. Salt can cause harm to plants and aquatic life, which prefer fresh water, not salt water. Use gravel and non-toxic alternatives to salt.
5. Pick up after your pet. Animal waste contains bacteria and diseases that cause harm to the water and aquatic life. It also decreases the amount of oxygen available for other life. The waste gets transported into our fresh water systems through storm sewers or by infiltrating the ground.
6. Disconnect your downspout. A downspout is the pipe which connects the eavestrough of a building to the ground. Some downspouts take rainwater straight into the sewer system, increasing the water flow on heavy rainfall days. By disconnecting your pipe, you are reducing the stress on the sewers during heavy rainfall days.
7. Use a rain barrel. Connect a rain barrel to the end of your downspout to catch rainwater from your roof. This diverts water from storm sewers and you can use it as needed in dry periods.
8. Go organic. Pesticides on your lawn and garden seep into the ground and end up in our water ways. Pesticides can kill or impair aquatic life. Pesticide use for cosmetic reasons is now banned in Ontario.
9. Use native plants, grasses and landscaping techniques that reduce the amount of irrigation needed. This method is called Xeriscaping.
10. Grasscycle. After mowing, leave grass clippings on your yard. These clippings return nutrients to the soil and decrease the amount of watering you would need to do.
11. Be safe with your household hazardous waste (HHW). Proper disposal of your HHW at a community event day will ensure that your waste is handled appropriately. NEVER pour household chemicals such as cleaners, paints, oils or medicines down the drain.
12. Reduce your use of hazardous chemicals. The less you buy, the fewer chemicals that may be exposed to the natural environment. Natural alternatives are often easy to make and are much less expensive.
13. Sweep up litter and dirt off your driveway, sidewalk and near your storm sewer grate. This will reduce the amount of urban runoff pollution on rainy days.
14. Create space for rain absorption. Paved surfaces like driveways and porches prevent water from infiltrating the ground. Instead use gravel, interlocking bricks or grass.
15. Update water hogs. Conserve water by updating old appliances as well as buying new energy and water efficient ones. If you are adding a new bathroom make sure that the waste water pipes are properly connected to the sanitary sewer.
16. Think water conservation. Days of heavy storms mean that the sewers are already under pressure. Do not take long showers, run a washing machine or dishwashers during these times. This will reduce pressure on treatment plants and avoid the need to release excess into rivers and lakes.
17. Have a rain friendly yard. Divert rain away from your house to an area where the stormwater can pool. Plant your yard with water loving trees and shrubs to aid in the absorption.
18. Dechlorinate your pool before discharge. Chlorinated water discharged into the storm sewer will kill aquatic life. Salt water pools must be drained into a sanitary sewer for treatment. Never drain your pool on a rainy day.
19. Spread the word! Educate family and friends about stormwater. Write to your MP and demand stormwater pollution prevention.