Prevent Storm Water Pollution - Residential

Prevent stormwater pollution around your home by following the steps below.  Make sure that anyone that does work around your house (landscapers, contractors, handymen) follow the same rules as well!

Pet Waste Belongs in the Trash!

You hate stepping in it. And fish hate swimming in it, too! 

  • When you walk your dog, make sure to carry a plastic bag with you so that you can pick up the waste and dispose of it properly. Flushing is the best disposal method (don’t flush the plastic bag), but you can also throw it in a trash can.
  • Some towns will fine you if they catch you leaving it in public areas!
  • Pet waste carries high levels of harmful E. coli bacteria and other pathogens that can wash into storm drains and waterways, increasing public health risks and causing infections.

Doo your Duty - Take the PUP (Pick Up Poop) Pledge

Household Chemicals

If you stop to think about it, your home is full of chemicals, such as used motor oil, cleaners, medicines, pesticides, solvents and old paint, just to name a few.  When you're cleaning out the garage, it might be tempting to pour those chemicals down the toilet, sink or the storm drain, but don't! They can be hazardous to waterways and should be disposed of at your local DPW or by following manufacturer's guidelines.

  • Never pour chemicals into storm drains. 
  • Avoid spilling onto paved surfaces.
  • Clean up leaks and spills using an absorbent such as kitty litter or sand, and sweep up immediately.

Lawn Care

  • For great tips see the "Think Blue" Website 
  • Test your soil and read the label before you apply fertilizer. If you use too much fertilizer, the excess will just wash away in the next rain, polluting your local waterways. Have your soil tested at the UMass Extension:
  • Use fertilizers sparingly and sweep up driveways, sidewalks and walkways. You may not even need to fertilize your yard! According to experts, most homeowners over-fertilize their lawns.
  • Use organic fertilizer whenever possible.  Organic or slow-release nitrogen fertilizer causes less harm to water.  Be sure to use fertilizer with no or low phosphorus—phosphorus causes algae growth in water.
  • In the spring, bag your grass clippings for curbside pickup. In the fall, do it again with your leaves. Even better, compost them to make a natural fertilizer for your garden. But whatever you do, don't dump them in a brook or storm drain, and don't leave them on the sidewalk!

Patios & Walkways

  • Use permeable materials, like pavers or crushed stone for any "hardscape" projects, such as patios or walkways.
  • Permeable systems allow rain and snow melt to soak through the material, thereby decreasing stormwater runoff.


  • Avoid over-watering to prevent excess runoff.  A lawn needs just 1" of water per week to be green. Be sure to check weather reports.
  • Upgrade to a moisture sensor to ensure irrigating only when needed
  • Don't irrigate in the middle of the day or when it’s windy, in order to prevent evaporation and runoff.
  • Make sure that sprinkler heads are pointed at the lawn and not the pavement - adjust and fix heads as necessary.

Soak Up the Rain!

Rainwater won't become stormwater pollution if you keep it on your property!

  • You can do that by connecting rain barrels to your gutters, and using the water they capture in your lawn or garden later. 
  • If you are renovating, consider a rain garden or modern "pervious" pavers that allow water to soak through into the soil below.
  • Build a rain garden or grassy swale, which is a simple, specially designed area planted with native plants that captures runoff from parking areas, driveways, walkways and roofs and filters it through the soil, rather than allow it to flow directly into storm drains, ponds or lakes.
  • Install a vegetated filter strip of native grass or plants along roadways or near streams. They trap the pollutants stormwater picks up as it flows across driveways and streets.
  • Redirect downspouts so that water flows into grass or shrubs instead of onto a driveway or sidewalk.
  • Install a dry well in your yard to capture excess runoff.

Septic Systems

If you smell sewage or see especially lush plants growing on your leach field, then your septic system might need attention. If your septic system needs repair, it might be polluting your local waterways. If it gets too bad, it might back up into your home!

  • Leaking and poorly maintained septic systems release nutrients and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that can be picked up by stormwater and discharged into nearby waterways.
  • Pathogens can cause public health problems and environmental concerns.  
  • Learn how your septic system works to eliminate stormwater pollution, and to avoid costly clean outs and repairs.

Snow/Ice Removal

  • Avoid over-salting in the winter, and sweep up any excess or spills.
  • Store salt in a covered area.
  • Use a product that is non-toxic to vegetation and wildlife.
  • Do not dump snow into a body of water.

Vehicle Care

It matters how and where you take care of your car.

  • When you are working on your car, take care to catch your used fluids in safe containers that you can take to a recycling center. Never dispose of these chemicals down a storm drain. 
  • If you spill anything, mop it up quickly.
  • It's best to take your car to a professional car wash. They have special equipment to treat all the dirty water they produce.
  • If you wash your car at home, it's best to park your car on the grass, first, rather than leave it on the driveway. 

Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs

Do you know how your eyes can burn after too much time in the chlorinated water of a swimming pool? Imagine how that feels for fish and frogs!

  • Pool owners should stop chlorinating as soon as they know they're going to drain the pool, and drain the water on the grass rather than directly into a waterway.
  • Never discharge pool water directly into a storm drain.
  • Dechlorinate pool, hot tub or spa water with neutralizing chemicals, if water is to be discharged into the ground.
  • If water cannot be dechlorinated, the water must be collected by a pool maintenance company.