Tips for Around the House
Sidewalks and driveways
Streets and driveways are sources of water pollution. Oil leaking from cars is a major cause of water pollution. Spilled or leaked antifreeze kills fish when it reaches streams. Remember, most of the water from your driveway and sidewalk flows directly into streams without treatment.
Keep suds out of the storm drains
Use low-phosphate soaps when you wash your car. Wash your car on the lawn rather than the driveway. Do not dump detergents or cleaning compounds into local waterways. Consider washing your car at a carwash, which disposes of the wash water properly. Sweep walkways and driveways rather than hosing debris into storm drains.
Tips for lawn and garden
Fertilize wisely and use pesticides only when necessary. Pesticides can be toxic to fish and can contaminate drinking water. Chemical and organic fertilizers both can cause excessive plant growth in water. When these plants die, they rob the water of oxygen and this can kill fish.
Compost your yard wastes. Keep grass clippings out of ravines and waterways, where they will become unwanted fertilizer. Encourage insect-eating birds and "friendly" insects like ladybugs and lace-wings. Attract birds by providing tree cover and food during winter.
Never spray pesticides or fertilizers near ditches, lakes, or bays.
Spray on cool, windless days.
Dispose of lawn and garden chemicals carefully. Follow instructions on the container. Never dump them down the drains, in the gutter or near water. They can "upset" the sewage treatment plant.
Gardening for Clean Water
Whether your garden is two feet or two miles from the nearest stream, lake, it affects our water quality.
Garden with native plants.
Native plants are especially adaptive to our dry summers. Native plants require little additional water after they become established. They are also more disease susceptible, requiring less fertilizers and pesticides.
Garden with drought-tolerant plants.
There are hundreds of beautiful plants that thrive in the Southwest on little or no additional water after they are established.
Seek non-chemical solutions to plant pest problems. Some chemicals may remain in the environment for many years, accumulating and causing damage to aquatic life. Additionally, chemicals may pose a health risk. For alternatives to chemicals, contact Bexar County Master Gardeners : www.bexarmg.org.
Control runoff and erosion
Removing vegetation or covering the ground with pavement and buildings prevents water from soaking into the soil. During rainstorms, this water flows across the ground, picking up oil, pesticides, fertilizers, grit, or anything else that will float, dissolve or be moved along. These pollutants are carried into surface and ground water.
Retain natural ground cover whenever possible.
Stabilize areas of bare soil with vegetation as soon as possible after grading. Plant more trees and shrubs, they capture and hold a lot of rain before it reaches the ground. Wherever possible, keep existing trees and bushes and plant more.
Avoid landscaping plastic. Large plastic sheets used to prevent erosion or weeds create as much runoff as paved
streets. Use burlap on hillsides and perforated landscaping fabrics on level areas.
Direct storm water to its proper place. Roof drains, driveway drains, and yard drains connected to the sanitary sewer take up valuable capacity.
Direct the water over lawns or construct French drains (gravel-filled trenches) whenever possible.
Collect roof water with a rain barrel. Use collected water for the garden.
Clean up pet wastes. Runoff can carry wastes into lakes and streams.
Drain hot tubs and swimming pools away from waterways and storm sewers. Chlorinated water is deadly to fish and aquatic life, and should be drained onto the ground or into domestic sewers.