Friday, March 11, 2011

Backyard conservation reduces storm water problems

When rains fall on roadways and rooftops, it can’t soak gently into the ground as it would on grass or woodlands. Instead, it flows off roofs and down gutters and through streets and into storm sewers, picking up pollutants as it goes. Besides affecting the quality of water in streams and rivers these storm sewers empty into, all this runoff can cause them to flood more quickly.

While you can’t eliminate runoff entirely, you can do your part to protect water quality and minimize the runoff from your home lot. Here are some suggestions from the Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District:

*Install rain barrels to catch water from downspouts instead of running it into storm sewers. This water is ideal for watering lawns, gardens, or indoor plants because it isn’t chlorinated. Besides, it’s free!

*Grow a rain garden in a natural depression or dig a spot for one. Plant water-tolerant plants to filter runoff as it soaks into the soil. Just be make sure the spot will drain within three days to interrupt the mosquito life cycle.

*Terrace steep slopes to slow runoff, allowing more to soak in and reducing erosion.

*Build sidewalks and driveways with materials that allow water to infiltrate, such as gravel, stones, bricks, mulch, wood chips, and ground cover plantings.

*Wash your car at a commercial car wash that treats and recycles wash water, or wash it at home over a grassy area or gravel using biodegradable, phosphorus-free soap.

*Use a drip pan to catch leaks from your car until you can get them fixed. To clean up fluid leaks or spills, soak them up with sand or cat litter. Choose non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners for your driveway.

*Bury pet waste, flush it or bag it and dispose of it in the garbage. It’s a source of bacterial contamination in runoff.

*Minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers on your lawn and follow label instructions. Careful lawn management can reduce the need for these products.

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