With the weather turning warmer, the days getting longer, and flowers blooming, spring is a time for renewal. It’s also ideal for promoting habits that can benefit our communities year round.
As we prepare to spend more time outdoors, it’s important to remember that our habits impact local waterways. When it rains, material from the ground is washed into creeks and streams, which then drain into nearby lakes and rivers. Through five simple actions, residents can do their part to keep surface water and our communities clean.
Washing your car
While we all love clean vehicles, it’s important to account for the water used to wash and rinse them. Detergents and soap suds are pollutants that can harm fish and other aquatic life by damaging their gills and killing fish eggs. Washing a car in a driveway can cause those pollutants to flow down the street and into storm drains; that water then flows untreated into nearby creeks and streams. The best solution: Wash your vehicle on your lawn, where the water can soak into the ground, or visit a commercial car wash, where runoff water goes to the water treatment plant.
Washing your boat
Because marinas are located at the water’s edge, it’s easy for pollution from boats and the surrounding upland area to enter the water. Pollution from marinas and boats can include oil and gasoline, trash, detergents and toxic metals, all of which can harm aquatic life and impair water quality. To leave minimal impact on water quality, be sure to wash boat hulls above the waterline, and use biodegradable detergents and cleaning products.
Maintaining your lawn
Over-fertilizing can create algae blooms as rains wash excess fertilizer into storm drains and waterways. These blooms cause fish kills. To prevent applying unnecessary lawn chemicals, get a soil test to determine exactly what your lawn needs. Always follow the labels on bottles of chemicals, and never apply before it rains. Instead of using fertilizer on plants, try adding compost, a natural, nutrient-rich soil additive or leaving grass clippings on the lawn.
Walking your dog
Dog waste contains three times more bacteria than human waste and is not considered fertilizer, so it does not benefit grass as it breaks down. Always pick up dog waste and throw it in the trash can, as leaf piles with bagged dog waste in them have to go into the landfill instead of being composted. The City of Columbia, Lexington County and Richland County have programs that donate pet waste stations to neighborhoods. Visit trashthepoop.com to learn more.
Adopting a stream
SC Adopt-a-Stream is a community science program that gives volunteers a role in keeping waterways clean – by monitoring water quality while sharing information about local water resources. Through a workshop, volunteers learn to collect and analyze water quality samples to determine a waterway’s chemical, physical and biological health. To get involved, visit scadoptastream.org.
By implementing one or all five of these habits you are not only helping keep waterways clean, but your community as well.