Water Pollution Solutions

Stormwater Runoff

When we think water pollution, we may instantly picture a big factory with smoke pipes, an oil spill, or a toxic leak from an industrial facility. But across the country, "non-point source pollution," or pollution that comes from our small sources like our homes, yards, roads, and cars is the number one cause of water pollution. When it rains, water that doesn't soak into the ground is called stormwater or stormwater runoff. This water goes down your local storm drains, leading to streams, rivers, bays, and eventually the ocean. It can be problematic because as it flows over land and roads, it picks up trash, dirt, oil, pet waste, pesticides and or other chemicals. For example, washing a car on a paved driveway can cause auto fluids (oil, gas, anti-freeze), dirt, and heavy metals from wearing brakes or tires to flow from the driveway into the road, then down the storm drain and into a local stream.

Luckily, there are a number of ways that each of us can minimize our contribution to polluted runoff:

  • Think native. There are many plants, grasses and flowers that are native to our area and are therefore adapted to our particular climate, soil, and precipitation. Once established, they need little to no care, which reduces the need for costly and potentially harmful pesticides, fertilizers and supplemental watering. Consider bayscaping!
  • Use a mulching mower or go bagless. For those areas where you do have turf grass, mulching mowers provide a natural fertilizer for your lawn by grinding up leaves and grass and leaving them in place. This will also protect your grass from the hot summer sun and saves you from having to bag leaves in the fall. 
  • Find a lawn alternative. City code does not mandate turf grass. All sorts of alternatives to traditional turf lawns are available, including clover, sedum, and native grasses. The Maryland Extension Service has more information on native groundcovers
  • Use a commercial car wash. Federal laws require that these facilities send the dirty wash water to the local wastewater treatment plant...and many will collect, clean and reuse the water on-site. 
  • If you want to wash your car, do it on your lawn. There is a regulation in the City that car tires must be on paved surfaces, but moving the car onto the grass temporarily for washing or maintenance is allowed, provided it is immediately moved back to the road, driveway or parking lot. This allows the ground to soak up the dirty water, rather than it becoming runoff.
  • At-home maintenance should be performed in a garage or on a grassy surface when possible. City code requires all four vehicle tires be on a paved surface so this move is only temporary (while changing your oil). Be sure to take your used oil to the oil recycling facility at Public Works (16500 Annapolis Road).