Visit the rain garden links page to learn how to reduce water pollution, minimize chemical use on your lawn, and attract birds and butterflies through the creation of a rain garden on your property.
Pledge to use phosphorus-free fertilizer and learn more about how your lawn care choices affect water quality at ClearChoicesCleanWater.org.
Tips For the Home and/or Vehicle Owner
Below are some easy to follow tips that can be followed to improve your storm water quality.
In the yard or garden:
- Practice dry cleanup methods when cleaning your driveway or sidewalk. By using a broom instead of a hose, debris will be prevented from entering storm drain inlets and eventually streams. Also, use cat litter to soak up leaked oil, which can be then thrown away in the trash once dry.
- Have your soil tested. A soil test is an inexpensive and informative way to determine the quality of your soil. The laboratory will test soil pH, nutrient content, and percentage of organic matter. From these results, you can determine exactly what nutrients your lawn and garden need, which will help minimize the use of chemical which can runoff into streams. A soil test costs $9 at the Monroe County Farm Bureau Cooperative, 1305 W. Bloomfield Rd., Bloomington. Phone: (812) 332-4471.
- Minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers around your property because they can be easily washed off your property by rain and into streams. If you must use chemicals, use those that are the least toxic, follow the directions carefully, and use as small amounts as possible.
- Use phosphorus-free lawn fertilizers. Phosphorus runoff from lawns is washed into streams and lakes, where it encourages algae growth. But only newly-seeded lawns or phosphorus-deficient soils (as indicated by testing) require phosphorus. When buying lawn fertilizer, look for the three numbers on the bag and choose products where the middle number is zero. This indicates that the fertilizer does not contain phosphorus (the other numbers indicated the amount of nitrogen and potassium, respectively).
- When painting, do not rinse brushes off in the lawn or dump extras into storm drains. Instead, rinse brushes and rollers off in a sink or tub, and drop your extra paint off at the household hazardous waste facility for reuse.
- Clean up immediately after your pets and throw the waste into the trash or in the toilet. Otherwise, disease causing pathogens in the waste can be transferred directly into streams.
- Dispose of lawn waste in compost piles and use a mulching mower. Never place leaves or other lawn debris in waterways because it will cause a decrease in oxygen in waterways, killing fish.
- Reduce the amount of paved area and increase the amount of vegetated area in your yard. Use native plants in your landscaping to reduce the need for watering during dry periods. Consider directing downspouts away from paved surfaces onto lawns and other measures to increase infiltration and reduce polluted runoff.
- Use Integrated Pest Management Practices to maximize the health of your lawn while minimizing the risk to your local waterways.
In your garage:
- Maintain your vehicle so that it doesn't leak oil and antifreeze on the ground. Park your car over a piece of cardboard overnight to see what and how much fluid might be leaking. If so, get it fixed, or continue to soak up leaking fluids at night with a mat that can be eventually thrown away.
- When changing fluids, do not dump the fluids into the gutter or lawn because the fluid from one oil change can pollute up to a million gallons of fresh water. Instead, recycle the fluids and filters at one of the many transfer stations provided by the Monroe County Solid Waste District. Call the MCSWD at 349-2950.
- Do not wash cars, RVs, or boats at home because the detergent laden water runs into storm drains and then into creeks. Remember, soap destroys dirt and organisms, it will do the same in creeks. Instead, go to a full or self serve car wash because the water used there is cleaned in a waste water treatment plant.
In your community:
- Educate your neighbors about the importance of storm water quality.
- Get a group together, and stencil storm drain inlets in your neighborhood with a "don't dump, drains to river" message. Visit the Bloomington Utility's storm drain marking program website to learn more.
- Report any illegal dumping into storm drainage inlets, such as soil running off of construction sites into drains, or falling septic systems.
- Adopt a storm drain in your neighborhood by yourself or with neighbors, and take turns cleaning away debris from it after storm events.
Swimming Pool and Spa:
- Drain your swimming pool only when a test kit does not detect chlorine levels because chlorinated water is very harmful to stream life.
- Whenever possible, drain your pool or spa into a sanitary sewer system.
- Properly store pool and spa chemicals to prevent leaks and spills, preferably in a covered area to avoid exposure to storm water.
Septic System Use and Maintenance:
- Have your septic system inspected by a professional at least every 3 years, and have the septic tank pumped as necessary (usually every 3 to 5 years).
- Care for the septic system drain field by not driving or parking vehicles on it. Plant only grass over and near the drain field to avoid damage from roots.
- Flush responsibly. Flushing household chemicals like paint, pesticides, oil, and antifreeze can destroy the biological treatment taking place in the system. Other items, such as diapers, paper towels, and cat litter, can clog the septic system and potentially damage components.