Help Reduce Storm Water Pollution to the Bay

Nov 2, 2012

Below are ten things you can do around your home, in your yard and in the community to help reduce the flow of storm water pollution to the Bay.

Reuse rainwater. Collecting rainwater is a simple way to help reduce storm water runoff and lessen demands on California’s water supply. Rainwater is great for irrigating gardens or watering indoor plants. Rain barrels can be installed by both homeowners and tenants, as long as tenants get their landlord’s permission. Click here for resources to help you get started. 

Plant a rain garden. Direct the rainwater from your roof, driveway, and walkways to a garden containing native, drought-resistant plants. A rain garden absorbs rainwater and breaks down pollutants naturally instead of allowing polluted water to flow to the Bay. Click here for more on rain gardens and how to build one. 

Install a patio, sidewalk, or driveway that absorbs rainwater. New paving materials allow rain to soak in rather than run off. Click here for more on paving that absorbs rainwater and finding an installer.

Practice Bay-friendly car maintenance. Don’t wash your car in a driveway or on the street, which sends harmful chemicals into storm drains to end up in the Bay. Instead, take your car to a car wash facility where the water is diverted to a wastewater treatment plant. Also, check your car regularly for leaks – oil and gas residues left on the road will eventually be flushed into the Bay.

Don’t pour hazardous products into street gutters or storm drains. Once they enter the storm drain system, hazardous chemicals end up in the Bay, harming fish, birds, and other wildlife. Always take toxic household and yard products to a hazardous waste collection facility. Visit for locations.

Limit your use of pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals will be washed off your lawn and ultimately into the Bay. Pesticides can harm aquatic life such as fish and amphibians, and fertilizer releases phosphorus into our waterways, which can cause algal blooms that deplete oxygen and block sunlight in the water.

Make sure your trash doesn’t end up in the Bay. Dispose of litter responsibly. Check your trash and recycle bins to be sure they’re firmly closed. Better yet, limit your use of disposable items to help reduce waste.

Smoker? Put your cigarette butts in the trash. Don’t drop cigarette butts on the sidewalk or throw them into gutters or storm drains, where they’ll be washed into the Bay. Cigarette filters are made of plastic that does not break down in the environment. They release toxic chemicals, including arsenic and lead, and also get trapped the digestive tracts of seals, birds, and many sea creatures.

Pick up after your pet. Bacteria, parasites, and viruses from pet waste can easily wash into storm drains and end up in the Bay without being treated.

Help your city build Bay-friendly storm water systems. Learn more about the storm water systems where you live, and support funding increases for infrastructure improvements. Cities can do a lot to control storm water pollution, such as installing trash removal devices on storm drains; requiring new development projects to have features that reduce storm water pollution; reducing pesticide use on city property; and offering safe disposal programs for mercury-containing consumer products such as thermometers. It’s important that our communities invest in systems to clean up storm water in order to reduce pollution to the Bay. You can find your local storm water program at the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association website,


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