Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Urban Runoff

Urban runoff, or stormwater, is water that literally "runs off" the pavement and streets and into catch basins through the storm drain system into the L.A. River and out to sea.  You know you've seen a catch basin if you've seen the blue "No Dumping: This Drains to the Ocean" stamp on a sidewalk. The problem is that when it rains or when we hose off our cars or driveways in Los Angeles, trash and pollutants catch a ride and wash out to sea with all that water as well.

The problem is that 100 million gallons of contaminated water rush through our city's storm drain system and out to the Pacific every dry day--it comes from the water we use outdoors on plants, driveways, and cars. On a rainy day, that number can reach into the billions of gallons.

How does the water get contaminated in the first place?  That's where the the public comes in.  By adopting certain practices, we can prevent polluted water from flowing into our waterways where it damages aquatic ecosystems in devastating ways.  

Here are a few best practices:

Don't litter (and that includes cigarette butts!).
Avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in your garden--they wash off and away when plants are watered or it rains.
Use a broom rather than a hose to sweep debris from your property.  Then, put it in the city's green bin for composting/mulching.
Never leave pet waste on the ground; collect it and throw it in the trash bin.
Maintain your car to avoid oil leaks and make sure your oil is disposed of properly if you change it yourself.
Wash your car with natural soap on the grass, not the driveway (or use waterless car wash spray).
Avoid plastic!  A plastic bottle can take over 400 years to decompose.  That's a long time for a little convenience.

Finally, if you'd really like to see up close the effects of the trash our community throws on the ground and make a difference cleaning it out of our local river, sign up with Friends of the L.A. River for its annual Gran Limpieza River Cleanup.  It's on Saturday, May 17th this year and you can learn more about it here. 

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