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Urban runoff is one of the top sources of pollution to rivers and streams. According to the EPA, 70% of pollution to the surface waters comes from storm runoff. Other independent studies have shown that 50% of this pollution if from homeowners and individuals as a result of yard maintenance, landscaping waste, and chemical pollution from the household. The first step in creating a landscape that will prevent stormwater runoff from carrying sediment and waste to the rivers and streams is laying down a base of permeable soil. Permeable soil allows storm water runoff to seep into the landscape instead of washing over the yard and carrying debris into the storm drains. Depending on the current soil type in the area, creating a permeable soil base could include rototilling the area, laying down mulch, paving patio and driveway areas with a permeable concrete, asphalt, or natural gravel, or a combination of all these practices. Laying down mulch will also increase water savings. For every 1,000 square feet of area that is irrigated, mulch can save 20 to 30 gallons each time!
Stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of water pollution, not only in California, but across the nation. Human activity has been shown to worsen the quality of stormwater runoff through the introduction of oils and grease, metals, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria from pet waste, and many other harmful substances associated with human activity. One of the most effective methods for improving the water quality of tomorrow is by educating the children of today. As parents and teachers we can have a tremendous impact on the behaviors of future generations simply by educating our youth and showing them how their behaviors can affect the environment around them. Below are links to various Watershed Programs around the nation that will provide parents and teachers with the tools they need to educate children (K-12) about stormwater runoff, and illustrate how their behavior can impact the health of the Madera County watershed.
Madera County spends approximately $750,000 to $1 million per year collecting roughly 1,500 tons of illegally dumped material. Do your part to deposit trash in its proper place so that these funds will be directed to vital community services. Learn more about the hazards of illegal dumping here: It is illegal to dump trash on roadsides, vacant lots, in canals, along creek banks, or in open space areas. Fines for illegal dumping can range from $250 to $1,000. Backyard burning is the burning of trash by residents on their own property. Paper, cardboard, food scraps, plastics, yard trimmings, furniture, and more are being burned instead of being recycled or sent to a landfill where the trash may be properly disposed of. Burning occurs in a burn barrel, homemade burn box, wood stove, outdoor boiler, or open pit. Dangerous air emissions from backyard burning are released directly to the atmosphere without being treated or filtered.
Uncontrolled stormwater runoff from construction sites can significantly impact water quality within Madera County. As stormwater flows over a construction site, it can pick up pollutants like sediment, trash, and chemicals and transport them to storm drains or directly into streams and rivers. In an attempt to limit the amount of construction generated pollutants from entering local waters, the County of Madera is working with contractors to ensure the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) at all construction sites. Best Management Practices are structural and/or behavioral tools that can be used to prevent pollutants from being mobilized in stormwater.
Debris, chemicals, solutions contained in runoff water enter the storm drains and makes its way to the local water ways, untreated. Nationally, it is estimated that 200 million gallons of used motor oil is dumped in landfills, storm drains, on the roads, and in sewers each year and contributes 40% of the total water pollution. It is imperative to limit the amount of pollution in order to keep our rivers and streams clean and healthy. In Madera County, there are multiple locations where one may dispose of used motor oil. Oil may be cleaned and used many times. Therefore, transporting used oil to these Certified Collection Centers is a fantastic opportunity to recycle. In doing so, you are doing your part to preserve the cleanliness of local waterway ecosystems.
Pet waste pollutes stormwater runoff and causes water quality to decrease. During a storm, pet waste that has not been properly disposed of is very quickly dissolved and washed away into storm drains which drain into local water ways. It may require more than one year for dog waste to decompose completely. In this time, the waste can be washed into the storm drains and into our local water supply. Pet waste contains bacteria and excess nutrients that harm wildlife living in and near local water ways. Fecal coliform, the bacteria found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, exists in dog waste in amounts almost twice as high as humans. When this bacteria is introduced into local sources, it may cause disease and illness. Pet waste may also contain a variety of other bacteria and viruses. When humans come in contact with these, they are likely to become ill with symptoms, including abdominal cramps, fever or coughing. It is very important to make a habit of picking up pet waste and disposing of it in the garbage, or down the toilet to keep homes and community safe and healthy.