With over 10 million people living in the state of North Carolina, state residents’ day to day activities have an impact on water quality. Stormwater is surface runoff that does not soak into the ground during precipitation events (drizzle, rain, snow, and hail). As stormwater flows over neighborhoods, businesses, and streets, it picks up the trash, cigarette butts, pesticides, motor oils and other contaminants accumulated on hard surfaces and deposits them into our local creeks, rivers, and the ocean UNTREATED! Stormwater runoff is the #1 source of water pollution and the biggest threat to water quality in the state.
So what can you do? Here are some easy ways you can improve water quality this spring!
1. Don’t Over-Apply Fertilizer! Why?
Premature Plant Death
Over-application of synthetic or chemicals fertilizers can increase soil salinity and root burn in the long run, which may result in your plants not being able to properly absorb water and nutrients in the soil, leading to their untimely demise. Overuse of synthetic fertilizer can also disrupt soil chemistry and actually do damage to soils.
Harmful to Aquatic Life and Humans
When excess fertilizer gets into our storm drain system and travels into our waterways and oceans, algae blooms can form resulting in a loss of oxygen in the water. Algae blooms pose a direct threat to aquatic animals, which need to breathe just like we do!
A well-maintained, natural lawn care system requires little to no fertilizer. Talk to your local garden center about how to care for your landscape and if you must fertilize, what products you can purchase that are organic and environmentally friendly.
2. Sweep, Don’t Hose!
Sweep around your house and driveway vs. hosing to clean away the accumulated dirt and debris. When you sweep, pick up the debris and place it into the appropriate trash receptacle. Potentially impactful items and debris picked up and placed in the trash are less likely to get into the storm drain system and degrade water quality.
3. Take Your Car to A Car Wash
Spring is a great time for cleaning up inside and outside the home. However, when you spruce up your car, think of going to a local car wash vs. hosing it down at home. This actually saves water and reduces runoff to our waterways that contains soap and debris.
A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. If you wash your car for 10 minutes, you might consume 100 gallons of water. While hosing with an automatic shut-off valve may save more water, it’s still recommended to take your car to a commercial car wash that can properly dispose of harmful runoff (debris, oil, harmful soaps, etc.). Commercial car washes also have sophisticated reclamation systems that enable them to re-use water, so they only expend approximately 9-15 gallons of water during any given wash cycle.
4. Plant Native Plants
Native plants are the foundation of a natural ecosystem. They provide biodiversity and give critters ample food and habitat, creating a sustainable ecosystem in your yard. Native plants also thrive in their “home” environment, requiring less water to thrive. Check out this list of North Carolina’s recommended native species here!
5. Make Your Landscape Water-Friendly
Consider installing green infrastructure practices like permeable pavers, rain barrels, French drains, bioswales, or reducing lawn areas altogether. When you use these practices to control the flow and sinking of water in your landscape, you’re helping to keep toxins and debris out of the storm drain system as well as capture water naturally — a WIN-WIN for you and the environment. Check out these Green Infrastructure Ideas, click here.
6. Scoop Your Pet’s Poop!
With warmer weather comes more walks with your fuzzy friend in the outdoors. Always remember to clean up after your pet’s waste and place it in the trash. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria that will wash into our waterways after a rainfall- which there is plenty of in the spring!
7. Drain Swimming Pool Safely
If you have a pool, drain it only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels. Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into the sanitary sewer system, where it will be treated. Also, store pool and spa chemicals in a covered area to prevent leaks and spills to the stormwater system.
Creek Week is a time to discover and clean up our local streams through recreational, educational, and volunteer opportunities! It has been celebrated in Durham since 2009, with 2,783 volunteers collecting 152,798 pounds of litter to date. Please refer to CWEP’s Creek Week page to learn more about Creek Week happenings throughout the state of North Carolina this coming March!
Did you know?
Did you know that pet waste contains bacteria and parasites that can pollute our waterways? Pet waste also contains high levels of nutrients that can enter our streams and lakes, contributing to harmful algae growth and invasive aquatic weeds. This harms the freshwater organisms, and produces toxins dangerous to humans and animals.
For Durham Creek Week 2019, stop by Piney Wood Dog Park and have your four-legged friend sign a pledge promising that he/she will pick up their waste! In exchange for signing the pledge, your dog will receive a copy of the pledge, some dog treats, and a biodegradable dog waste bag! To learn more about all of the events taking place during Creek Week 2019, check out Keep Durham Beautiful’s events page here.
Organized by: Triangle J Council of Governments, Clean Water Education Partnership. Contact Blair Frantz with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we come into cooler, winter months, it’s time to start thinking about any additional maintenance that needs to be done with the rain water harvesting systems you may have!
What is a rain barrel?
A rain barrel collects and stores rainwater from your roof through a drain (gutter) system for future use such as watering lawns and gardens. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes, but a 55 gallon container is the most common size. Rain barrels can be added to any building with gutters and downspouts. You can construct a rain garden yourself, or purchase one already made- but they all serve the same purpose: to collect rainwater and decrease the amount of stormwater runoff that leaves your property. Using rain barrels is one way to decrease your household’s impact on local waterways and to become a good steward of the local watershed.
Why use rain barrels?
The average rainfall of one inch within a 24-hour period can produce more than 700 gallons of water that runs off the roof of a typical house. Much of this water runs from gutters onto surfaces that do not allow water to soak into the ground. These are called impervious surfaces and include concrete, asphalt, and compacted soil. Even commonly used sod has a very low infiltration rate and can be a major cause of increased runoff. As it flows, runoff collects and transports soil, pet waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, oil and grease, litter and other pollutants. This water drains directly into nearby creeks, streams and rivers, without receiving treatment at sewage plants. Polluted stormwater contaminates local waterways. It can harm plants, fish and wildlife, while degrading the quality of water.
How to maintain your rain barrel?
Rain barrels need regular maintenance, similar to other features of your property. It is especially important to remember to drain water before every storm and to remove debris and sediment from your barrel regularly.
✔Check the entire system (gutters, debris filter, pipe, spittings, spigot, etc) to ensure the barrel is functioning properly.
✔Place gutter guards and/or screens on top of roof downspouts and on top of the barrel to prevent leaves and sediment from entering the rain barrel.
✔Remove leaves and other debris from the screen at the top of the barrel, the overflow pipe, and the roof gutters.
✔Regularly use water in your barrel between rain events to make sure there is room to collect rainwater during the next storm. Drain your rain barrel before the winter season!
✔If your rain barrel has a filter screen, make sure it does not have holes and securely fastened to keep mosquitoes out.
✔Unless your rain barrel is made out of a material specifically designed for freezing temperatures, disconnect it during the winter to avoid damage. Around thanksgiving, disconnect the rain barrel from your downspouts, empty and wash the barrel, and store it upside down. Re-connect your rain barrel to the downspouts around April Fool’s Day.
✔Open the rain barrel spigot if you are going to be away from your home for a long time during the holidays- make sure it will drain away from your foundation.
✔Clean the barrel using a non toxic substance such as vinegar to remove residue or algae.
✔If you find mosquitoes in your rain barrel, you may add a quarter dunk monthly depending on the size of your rain barrel.
X Don’t leave rain in your rain barrel for long periods of time.
XDon’t drink the water in your rain barrel or use the water inside your home or for your pets. This water should be used as non-potable water.
XDon’t let kids play in or around rain barrels.
X Don’t forget to re connect your rain barrel after the winter season.
XDon’t spray the water directly on vegetables or plants, as it may contain bacteria from the roof.
X Don’t let the barrel foundation become unstable or tip over.
Who is responsible for this maintenance?
As the property owner, YOU are responsible for all maintenance of your rain barrels.
Why is it important to maintain your rain barrel?
An unmaintained rain barrel may lead to problems including:
Overflow flooding and erosion near the foundation
Become clogged and not allow rainwater to pass into or out of the barrel
Become a breeding place for insects
Cause ice dams in the winter if not disconnected
By maintaining your rain barrel, you are doing your part to conserve rainwater and protect your local streams. You can prolong the life of your rain barrel and save money on maintenance costs by regularly maintaining and inspecting the rain barrel to ensure everything is running smoothly!
Millions of plastic straws are being used daily all around the world. Many end up in our waterways where they harm wildlife, impact water quality, and add to pollution. The goal of “No Straw November” is to bring awareness to the many plastic straws that are being used once and then thrown away in a single month. This national campaign challenges people to refuse plastic straws the whole month of November while raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution. One plastic straw does not seem like much, but they add up one by one and have damaging effects on the environment. Because plastic does not biodegrade, nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists. Over time, plastics break into increasingly smaller pieces called microplastics, which ultimately find their way up the food chain and into our seafood and drinking water. Plastic pollution in our waterways is also often mistaken for food by animals like sea turtles, fish, and seals, impacting millions of marine organisms and, human health.Straws are just one of several plastic items that the public thinks are recyclable, yet often are not due to ineffective processes and high costs. Plastic straws contaminate recycling because they are too small to capture and make into new products. Ultimately, straws reduce the value of other recyclables and end up in landfills.
What Can You Do To Get Involved?
Simply request “no straw” at bars & restaurants and share your commitment with others. Encourage your favorite restaurant or bar to only provide straws on request from the customer and to use reusable or naturally compostable options to the plastic straw. Print these forms and hand them out to staff, management, commercial businesses, schools, etc. that use plastic straws.
We also invite all bars and restaurants, to be part of the movement to eliminate plastic pollution from the source. By simply stating on menus “Straws available upon request”, bars and restaurants can be part of the solution.
Provide a straw only when requested by a customer
Provide either reusable or naturally compostable straws
Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans create 25% more waste than during the rest of the year? Yikes. That’s a lot of waste. And much of that waste comes from cooking, especially grease and fat from our favorite holiday turkeys and hams. As we learned in last week’s blog post, grease can cause a major hazard if not disposed of correctly. This holiday season, make sure to keep our stormwater clean and our stormwater systems functioning at peak efficiency by keeping it out of the drain. You may choose to dispose of grease in the trash or designated grease recycling centers.
However, disposal isn’t your only option for keeping our sewers fat-free. If you’re big into reusing, don’t worry, you don’t have to throw away or recycle your oil — you can use it for future cooking or crafts! You can use leftover grease and fat to make a roux, garnish your soup, sauté greens, or make salad dressings, bread, or pasta sauce. On the craft side, you can make candles, make dog and bird treats, or add it to your compost. For a full list of ideas of how to reuse oil, as well as information on what kind of oils to use for what cooking, check out this page from Fix.com
(Featured image from the municipal government of Addison, TX. Source)
Check out this great video from Wellington Water in New Zealand about how to keep your car wash activities from polluting our water! All communities face the same stormwater challenges we do, so we can all learn from each other when it comes to cleaning up. Take a look and see what you can do differently this summer to reduce your stormwater impact, and tell your friends and neighbors when you see them washing their cars!
Our everyday activities can really contribute to stormwater pollution if we aren’t careful. Trash, litter, pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, oil, you name it – it can end up in the storm drain and on its way to the nearest stream before you know it! Of course, that pollution can have a major impact on the fish and other animals that live in those streams, ponds, and rivers where the pollution ends up. What would happen if the fish could tell us they didn’t appreciate us sharing our dirty stormwater with them?
Check out the video below to see what happened when Jonny Fishpatrick was fed up with the stormwater pollution being dumped in his home, and imagine how this could be happening in your neighborhood!
It’s heating up out there, and the grass is certainly responding! Many of us know we’ll need to mow frequently over the next few months, but we may not know that yard waste, such as those lawn clippings, is actually a stormwater pollutant that can have a big impact on water quality. Check out the CWEP video below starring the Sodfather, and learn about what you can do to help keep stormwater runoff clean as we do our summer landscaping!
Thanks to Tyler with the Green Teens Club for sending over this great resource on water pollution! This infographic from Basement Guides offers a lot of interesting information on sources of contaminants in your home, as well as additional data on pollution around the world. Click on the image below to take a look at their site!
Also check out the Green Teens Club website below to find more information about environmental issues, as well as see the cool work the Club is doing in their area. Maybe you’ll want to start your own club!