What's the big deal about runoff?

Runoff carries pollutants. Water that doesn't soak into the ground becomes runoff. The things we do everyday in our homes, yards, and communities all impact runoff, including how we dispose of trash, maintain our vehicles, and care for our yards and gardens. Rain, over-watering, incorrectly adjusted sprinklers, and hosing off hard surfaces all cause runoff. Runoff picks up trash, dirt, yard debris, oil residue, pet waste, pesticides, and fertilizers and transports them into our rivers, creeks, lakes, and the ocean. These pollutants can cause harm to humans and to wildlife. We can impact the amount of runoff and the amount of pollution in the runoff by following these 10 easy tips.

10 Easy Ways To Protect Our Watersheds

In the Yard

1. Clean up outside your home including trash, leaves, yard clippings and pet waste.

2. Water the yard only as needed and avoid spraying streets, sidewalks, and driveways to prevent water from carrying pollutants directly into storm drains.

3. Divert rainspouts and garden hoses away from paved surfaces. Provide landscaping next to sidewalks and driveways to help collect and filter rain runoff.

4. Control erosion around your property to prevent dirt and debris being carried into the storm drain.

5. Read labels on pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides prior to use and follow instructions carefully. Try Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a less toxic alternative for yard pest management. www.ipm.ucdavis.edu

Around the Car

6. Wash your car on an unpaved area or take it to a commercial car wash where the wastewater will be treated.

7. Maintain your car so that it won’t leak fluids onto roads/driveways. If leaks can’t be avoided, use drip pans. Clean up spills with absorbent materials, bag it, and dispose of it in the trash or at a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection event. Dispose of waste vehicle fluids at a certified recycling facility (such as many auto parts stores) or HHW event.

Around the House

8. Keep paints, solvents, and other “toxic” chemicals off the ground and away from storm drains. Painting tools used with water-based paints can be rinsed in the sink. Take all unwanted paint and solvents (including waste from washing tools used with latex and oil-based paints) to a HHW event.

Pet Waste

9. Pet waste is not part of a healthy watershed. Be sure to pick it up when walking your dog. The watershed should only shed water.


10. Proper manure management can prevent pollutants from entering waterways and improve livestock health. Deposit waste in sturdy insect-resistant and seepage-free waste containers.