We all have an impact on the health of our watersheds. Our daily actions on our own properties, including how we care for our yards and dispose of our waste, may seem unimportant, but these small actions have can a huge effect across an entire watershed. There are many ways you can help improve your watershed. Here are our top ten:
1. Disconnect your downspout. Rain from your rooftop may flow or indirectly directly to the storm sewer, or a local waterbody. You can redirect the flow so it goes to your yard or garden.
- How to Manage Stormwater: Downspout Disconnection. A brochure from Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.
2. Install a rain barrel. Capture your rooftop runoff and store it for future use to water your garden or wash your car.
- How to Install a Rain Barrel. A step-by-step instructional brochure created by the Center for Watershed Protection for the South River Federation.
- How to Manage Stormwater: Rain Barrels. A brochure from Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.
3. Install a rain garden. Rain gardens are landscaped depressions that capture and slowly infiltrate runoff from your rooftop or a paved surface. They not only remove pollutants but are a beautiful alternative to lawns.
- Rain gardens: a how-to manual for homeowners This guidebook by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provides step-by step instructions on design and implementation of a rain garden.
- How to Install a Rain Garden. A step-by-step instructional brochure created by the Center for Watershed Protection for the South River Federation.
- Virginia Department of Forestry's Rain Garden Page. This page offers introductory language as well as a technical manual providing a step by step "how-to" to create your own rain garden.
4. Plant a tree. Trees provide oxygen to breathe, clean the air of pollution, reduce runoff, and when located properly can even lower heating and cooling costs. If you have a stream on your property, consider planting trees along the stream to stabilize the banks, provide shade to stream organisms, and filter pollutants from runoff.
- Watch this video on how to plant a tree (the right way) by Planting America
- Learn more about planting and maintaining trees in urban areas at the Watershed Forestry Resource Guide
- Order trees from the National Arbor Day Foundation
- Riparian Forest Buffer Design and Maintenance. This guide, from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has been prepared for those who wish to establish a forest buffer in the Chesapeake Bay Region efficiently, effectively, and with a minimum of maintenance.
5. Landscape with native plants. Native plants require less water and fertilizer and are more resistant to pests and disease since they are already adapted to local conditions.
- National Wildlife Federation information on attracting wildlife with native plants. Includes links to regional lists of native plants, sample landscape plans, and more.
- Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed This guidebook from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service categorizes all the Bay area's native plants with photos, characteristics, conditions, habitat, and wildlife.
6. If you have a lawn, make it a low-input one. This means managing your lawn to use the least amount of water, fertilizer and pesticides possible, which also translates into low inputs of your own dollars!
- Gardening with Nature: Frequently Asked Questions about your lawn. Gardening With Nature's Carl Salsedo answers your questions on how to best care for your lawn in an environmentally friendly way.
- The webpage Know Your Soil: Soil Testing for Lawns and Gardens by the Mid-America Regional Council provides guidance on how to test your soil and use the results to determine how much fertilizer your soil really needs.
- Cornell Cooperative Extension The Homeowner's Lawn Care Water Quality Almanac provides lawn care advice for each month of the year that balances the need for water quality protection.
7. Pick up after your dog. Dispose of pet waste properly by either flushing it down the toilet, putting it in the trash in a sealed plastic bag, or burying it in your yard.
- Pet Waste fact sheet from the City of Carmel, Indiana
8. Maintain your septic system. Have your septic system inspected every two to three years by a licensed septic tank service contractor, and pumped as recommended by the inspector (generally every 3-5 years). Septic system failures can be costly and also contaminate groundwater and nearby surface waters.
- A Homeowner's Guide to Septic Systems, a brochure developed by the EPA that details all you need to know about your septic system and its maintenance.
9. Properly dispose of household hazardous wastes. This includes many paints, solvents, used motor oil, pesticides, cleaning products and more. These substances should be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection program or recycling facility, and should not be discarded in the trash, sink or storm drain.
- Learn more about how to safely handle and dispose of these materials at EPA's website on Household Hazardous Waste
- Locate a recycling center near you to dispose of your used batteries, light bulbs, medications, paint and more at Earth911.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services' Household Products Database provides health and safety info on household products. Learn more about what's in these products, potential health effects, and safety and handling.
10. Join a local watershed organization!
- Visit EPA's Surf Your Watershed to find a watershed organization near you.
You can also Donate to the Center and/or join the Center's professional membership program Center for Watershed Protection Association (CWPA).
Latest Watershed Science Bulletin
available. CWPA members must log in to read.
The Winter 2014 issue of Runoff Rundown has arrived! Read now...
Need to develop an IDDE program? Read the guidance.
NEW! Two versions of the Watershed Treatment Model (WTM) released to help users estimate benefits from a wide range of stormwater runoff and pollutant removal practices. Download your FREE COPY of the WTM and User's guide.
Reid Christianson considers if enhancing existing stormwater practices with additives such as biochar, iron filings and fly ash is a cost-effective method for increasing performance in the latest blog.
Maryland “Rain Tax” Debunked: Stormwater Fees are Common, Equitable Way to Pay for Reducing Polluted Runoff. Learn More...
Other Center Websites
- Center for Watershed Protection Awarded Gold-Level GuideStar Exchange Participant
- Hye Yeong Kwon Graduates from Leadership Maryland- Class of 2013
- The BUBBAs are coming!
- Chesapeake Bay Program approved new stream restoration protocols for estimating sediment and nutrient load reductions
- Center for Watershed Protection Appoints Scarfone as New Board Member
- The Center for Watershed Protection advances in providing stormwater and watershed management resources with new website features and enhanced membership benefits
- Leadership Maryland Selects Hye Yeong Kwon for its Class of 2013