When you live near the Great Lakes as we do, or any body of water, it is a fact of life that storm water runoff from your yard, roof, garden, building, parking lot, factory, or farm is going to eventually end up in that water feature because it is downstream from you. Unfortunately, the often cavalier manner in which fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, sealants, paints, stains, strippers, and an assortment of other harsh chemicals are applied, you’d think society lived in a sealed and protected vacuum. These actions are why the green algae blooms on are becoming more common and more pronounced in many locations in the United States. And they are why some bodies of water, such as the Gulf of Mexico, have dead zones.
The indiscriminate application of nasty stuff isn’t the sole cause of water pollution that you and I can control. Not cleaning up after your pet properly, feeding waterfowl so they congregate, and not maintaining your septic system can have dramatically negative impacts on water resources, as well. As the map below show, this is not a local problem, but a national problem.
It is time for all of us to take responsibility for our actions and decisions. Just recently, my wife and I had our deck re-stained. Unfortunately, the wrong mixture was applied. Instead of using a harsh chemical stain stripper to have the incorrect stain removed and subsequently washed off into our yard, we instead decided to leave the wrongly applied stain and let it naturally wear away.
A perfectly green lawn free of any and all weeds and insects is not a requirement of citizenship nor of good lawn care. Instead, they’re a false utopian image perpetuated by lawn care firms to have you “keep up with the Jones,” so to speak.
Here are ten ways we all can help protect our precious water bodies:
- Pull the weeds by hand, instead of applying herbicides.
- Use organic fertilizers or water your lawn regularly instead.
- Purchase and plant natural materials that help dissuade insects and weeds.
- Pick up after your pet immediately and do not feed waterfowl if you live near a water body.
- Wash you car at a carwash that employs proper mechanisms for collecting runoff instead of draining it down your driveway.
- Properly dispose of harmful materials such as chemicals, paints, sealants, motor oil, and similar items at recycling centers and drop-off locations. NEVER pour them down your drain or a street drain!
- Advocate for stricter laws in your community that protect water resources.
- NEVER utilize coal tar-based sealants, nor hire firms that do.
- Have your septic system regularly inspected and maintained and insist that your community and/or state require such inspections when properties are sold.
- Install rain barrels to capture rooftop runoff for watering gardens and yards.
The Municipal Water Reclamation District [MWRD] of the Chicago area also has a lot of good guidance for keeping nasty stuff out of the drains and waterways.
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