What you do in and around your home impacts your watershed. Even the smallest home and yard changes can make a big difference along your waterfront and possibly save you money. Explore these different ways to make sure your house is part of the solution to water pollution. When you’re ready to make some changes, or if you already have, be sure Protect_Kittery_Waters_Pledge to show your commitment to protect Kittery’s waters.
The rain-water that flows off our streets and yards can carry a nasty mix of heavy metals, oil, fertilizers, pesticides, yard waste, detergents, and animal feces! City storm drains deliver these substances directly to our streams and lakes, making life tough for the animals that live there. It’s tough for people too — water pollution often prevents us from enjoying our own waterways.
We are all citizens of a watershed. The problem of water pollution must be solved just as it was created; by the combined actions of all citizens who live and work in the watershed. If each of us changes a few of our daily habits, we can each protect the waters of Kittery and Eliot. (You can also download the full set of stormwater fact sheets.)
1. Build a Better Buffer
Grass mowed to the water’s edge provides a conduit for pollutants to enter waterways. The lack of deeper root systems in turf grass and removal of the natural shoreline can lead to erosion at the water’s edge. Compromised or missing buffers can increase the effects of polluted runoff, reduce the quality of our water, and decrease property values. Buffers are the single most effective protection for our water resources – plus they provide priceless recreational and aesthetic value. Buffers are a low-tech, high-performance option for stormwater management and resource protection that you can do in your own backyard. Learn more about how to build a better buffer.
2. Care for Your Lawn
A healthy lawn resists disease, drought damage, and weeds. While many lawns benefit from some extra nutrients once a year, fertilizing more often can harm your lawn and contribute to water quality problems. Excess fertilizers can run off when it rains, causing aquatic plants to go on growth and blooming binges. This robs the water of oxygen needed by aquatic organisms. Proper fertilizing, mowing and watering practices will result in a high-quality turf that protects water quality by reducing storm water runoff, minimizing soil erosion and improving water infiltration into the soil. Learn more about caring for your lawn AND the water.
3. Prevent Erosion
Believe it or not, the biggest threat to Maine’s water quality is plain old dirt, washing into our rivers, lakes and streams… from our lawns, roads, driveways and construction sites. Wherever you see bare soil, you’re seeing water pollution just waiting to happen. Because without vegetation, dirt washes away every time it rains. And it ends up in our rivers, lakes and streams. Dirt clogs waterways and destroys fishes’ gills. It also carries oil, fertilizer, pesticides and other chemicals that contaminate the water and lead to shallower streams and scummy green lakes. The erosion process can be accelerated or slowed by the practices you adopt, and sediment going into the creek is a pollutant. Learn more about preventing erosion on your property.
4. Garden Smart
In some cases, invasive nonnative plants have displaced native plants, thereby degrading the integrity and diversity of our native plant communities. Other invasive nonnative plants in Maine include multiflora rose, common and glossy buckthorns, shrubby honeysuckles, Asiatic bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, and Japanese barberry. Dumping yard waste or plant materials can create blockages to natural or man-made waterways. Excess vegetation can trap sediments and block the streambed, causing flooding. Dumped yard waste spreads invasive species, which can pose a threat to existing native vegetation and reduce the diversity of natural systems. Decomposing vegetation and excess nutrients reduce the oxygen available in streams for fish and aquatic life. Learn more about how gardening smart can keep your garden – and Kittery’s waters – healthy.
5. Reduce Runoff
Excessive aquatic plant growth and algal blooms, decreased water clarity, low stream flows and flashy flows, degraded habitat and shoreline erosion – all these are a result of increased and more polluted runoff from all of our homes. We’ve removed the natural “sponge” function of the land around us by creating surfaces that water can’t penetrate (driveways, sidewalks, rooftops and even yards). Since the water can longer infiltrate into the ground, it is forced to move along – often times carrying with it harmful chemicals and soil. Learn how you can address runoff before it leaves your property. Better yet, keep water on your property for use in areas such as your garden by installing a rain barrel to collect rooftop rain or creating rain gardens to capture and slow down runoff.
6. Keep It Clean
At least half of all surface-water pollution in the country comes from contaminated runoff. Pet waste contributes to the pollution that is transported by runoff every time it rains. Waste from dogs, cats, horses and waterfowl may contain disease-causing organisms that are harmful to both humans and animals. Animal waste also contains nutrients that encourage weed and algae growth in lakes and streams. Simply cleaning up after you pet can help to eliminate these risks. Most septic systems, even with maintenance, will work effectively for only an average of 15 to 25 years. To help protect against premature failure, the homeowner can follow simple septic system maintenance procedures to help reduce sludge build-up, reduce water use, eliminate toxic waste, keep the system’s bacteria working and protect the leaching system. Many household products contain hazardous ingredients which, if not properly handled, may end up in our waterways. We can limit our impact by reducing or eliminating the most toxic products and choosing alternatives that are less harmful. Simply eliminating the use of laundry detergents with optical brighteners will no only reduce the risk of human health issues but reduce the exposure of these toxins to fish and other animal and plant life.
Take the Pledge
What you do in and around your home impacts your watershed. Even the smallest home and yard changes can make a big difference along your waterfront and possibly save you money. Protect_Kittery_Waters_Pledge to commit to protect Kittery’s water resources.
The Spruce Creek Watershed Improvement Project is funded by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection through the 319 Grant Program.