Outdoor Maintenance

Mowing the lawn, weed whacking, owning an outdoor pet, and washing your car are all examples of common outdoor activities that can have harmful environmental effects if proper maintenance measures are not taken. Anything that ends up on a hard, impervious surface such as a driveway, sidewalk, road, or parking lot has the potential to get washed into a storm drain and/or directly into a local waterway, causing degraded water quality in the rivers and streams. The purpose of the "Outdoor Maintenance" tab is to show what you can do to reduce pollution by properly maintaining the outside of your home or business.


grass clippings.mowing

 Photo source:  "Which is greener, bagging your grass or leaving your clippings there?" How Stuff Works.

When you mow your lawn, be sure to make the first few passes where the clippings are blown into the lawn and not the street. After mowing the lawn, you should either compost your grass clippings or place them in a trash bag. Grass clippings contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, and when these clippings are washed down storm drains and directly into your local waterway, the spikes in these nutrient loads may cause uncontrolled algae and aquatic weed growth in the rivers and streams. 
Check out this document to learn more about grass clippings.

If you own an outdoor pet such as a dog or cat, make sure to clean up all pet waste. The waste contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria and this waste should be disposed of properly to avoid contamination of waterways. Pet waste is one of the greatest contributors to urban watershed pollution and you can help in reducing this pollution.



 Photo source: Upbeat.com

Car Washing


 Photo source: The Royal Wash

Washing your vehicle is an important part of maintenance, but many people choose to wash their vehicle in their driveway or in a parking lot. This dirty, soapy water from washing your car ends up running into a storm drain and into the nearest waterway. Instead, you should always take your vehicle to a commercial car wash, as the wastewater from these car washes is tied to the municipal sewer system and will get treated before discharging into the river. If a commercial car wash is not available, wash your car in a grassy area or on another permeable surface to provide proper filtration.
In the autumn when leaves fall on your lawn, be sure to rake them and place them in bags. When leaves are just piled up on a curb, wind often blows the leaves out into the street, and the storm drains get clogged, leading to future flood events. 

Additionally, when and if you fertilize your lawn or plants, make sure to carefully read the instructions on the label to determine how much fertilizer to use for the area you need. Many people over-fertilize without realizing it, often adding three times the necessary fertilizer amount for their needs.

Both leaves and fertilizer contain high concentrations of phosphorus, which is a nutrient that is harmful to aquatic life when it gets washed down a storm drain.

Check out this video to learn more about leaf and fertilizer tips: Leaf and Fertilizer Video

Leaves and Fertilizer

Image of Maple Leaf

Swimming Pools

a large black dog swims in water holding a tennis ball in its mouth

If you have an outdoor swimming pool, at the end of the season before you drain the water out, test the pool water to ensure it has a residual chlorine level of zero (0) ppm. Chlorine is toxic to aquatic animals and should not be dumped down storm drains. If you keep the pool uncovered at the end of the season, sunlight can naturally dissipate the chlorine after about 10 days. 

When watering your garden, use these smart watering techniques:

  • Harvest natural rainwater by using rain barrels (check out the Rain Barrels page to learn more)
  • Be sure to add mulch and/or compost to your garden, as these help to retain moisture and lower evaporation rates
  • Water early in the day to avoid wind and evaporation
  • Avoid the use of sprinklers, as these tend to waste twice as much water as drip irrigation or soaker hoses
  • Water directly on roots for the most efficient means of water retention

Watering the Garden