STOP THE TOXIC FLOW: Tips to decrease urban runoff

Over-irrigation     In a natural ecosystem, water sinks into the soil, nourishing plants and trees and before flowing  into rivers, lakes and the ocean.  Urban cities are built with many hard surfaces such as roads, driveways, parking lots and rooftops that disrupt this natural water cycle.  Rainwater or water running off landscapes or driveways picks up all types of debris and toxic substances such as oil, fertilizers and pesticides, pet waste and other pollutants, and then flows unchecked directly into our stormdrain system and out into our waterways.  This “urban runoff” is the number one source of  water pollution.

What can you do to stop this toxic flow?

•Reduce Hard Surface Areas

     Hard surfaces around landscapes and gardens encourage accelerated runoff of surface water. When you install permeable and/or porous walkways and native vegetation around these hard surfaces, you enable the water  to sink into the ground where it can clean itself and then be a benefit to the landscape vs. draining off untreated into the stormdrain system.

•Aerate your lawn

      If you’ve noticed that your grass isn’t looking great or that water seems to have difficulty penetrating through the soil, it may be time to aerate your lawn. The process of aeration involves perforating the lawn with small holes to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate. As a result, the grass roots grow deeper, promoting a higher quality lawn. To check to see if you need to aerate, take a shovel and dig a square-foot section of grass about six inches deep to examine the roots.  If the roots don’t extend further than two inches deep, then your lawn would benefit from aeration.  

•Change out your lawn

     Replace high maintenance grass lawns with an Ocean Friendly Garden or native garden.  These gardens are a beautiful and water efficient way to curb runoff and help you save on your water bill.  Native plants require less maintenance and little or no irrigation and no fertilizer. This will also support a habitat for native wildlife that will help “re-wild” your landscape and restore balance to our urbanized environments.  WATCH SustainableVentura.TV’s “Prevent Stormwater Pollution and Urban Runoff with Ocean Friendly Gardens”


•Reduce the use of toxic chemicals

     Traditional lush, green lawns usually require toxic fertilizers and herbicides to achieve this condition.  Composting your fruit and vegetable scraps in a backyard composter to create your own healthy amendments for your garden is a great way to reduce waste and enhance your soil.  If you must use fertilizers, it is best to use them sparingly and strictly according to package directions to prevent over-use and overflows into the stormdrain system. Slow-release fertilizers are best. Also, do your part to help the environment by purchasing products that are designated as “eco-friendly.” Listen to SustinableVentura.TV’s  “Weed Management” and ”Healthy Gardens” podcasts. LISTEN HERE.

onlyraindownthedrain•Sweep vs. Hose your driveway

     Instead of hosing your driveway, which wastes water and drives all the debris into the street and potentially into our storm drain system, sweep your driveway with a broom and then dispose of any debris properly (either in the trash or, if you’re sweeping organic material such as grass and leaves, place them in either your yard waste barrel or in your compost pile). 

•Doo the Right Thing

     Always pick up after your pet and properly dispose of pet waste in the trash. Pet waste is toxic if it winds up in our waterways. To find out more, Watch the Sustainable Ventura Video “Doo the Right Thing”.

WATCH Part One of “Doo the Right Thing”

WATCH Part Two of “Doo the Right Thing”

•Maintain Your Vehicles

     When you maintain your car and other vehicles regularly, you reduce the potential for costly repairs and potential oil leaks that, if left unchecked, can be a hazard to our water supply. Make sure that if you do notice a leak, to repair it immediately. A tip for soaking up a toxic oil spill – use cat litter to soak up the spill and then dispose of this litter safely in the trash.

•Take Your Vehicles to a Car Wash

     The City of Ventura recommends that you take your vehicle to a professional car wash. These businesses often use recycled water and are required to operate using certified water treatment capabilities, which protects our environment by not generating runoff. Going to a car wash also helps preserve our water sources.

For more information on preventing stormwater pollution, visit:

Maryann Ridini Spencer for SustainableVentura.TV

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