No single raindrop is responsible for the flood.
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Clean water in Howard County begins with you.
What Is Stormwater?
House illustration
Stormwater solution
Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams. Usually, a rain barrel is composed of a 55-gallon drum, a vinyl hose, PVC couplings, a screen grate to keep debris and insects out, and other off-the-shelf items. A rain barrel is relatively simple and inexpensive to construct and can sit conveniently under any residential gutter down spout.

Rain Barrel
Rain Barrel Distribution

Since 2010, 650+ free, pre-drilled barrels (to be made into rain barrels) have been distributed to residents at demonstrations and the annual GreenFest. Residents can purchase rain barrel parts at a reduced price at a local hardware store, in partnership with the County. A rain barrel is the perfect way to water your lawn and garden while saving water.

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Stormwater solution
Rain Garden

Rain gardens are shallow, planted depressions that collect and absorb runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and streets. Rain gardens are versatile features that can be installed in almost any unpaved space and typically feature low-maintenance native plants. Rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%.

Rain Garden
Rain Garden Workshops

The County conducted rain garden workshops for residents, who installed 30 residential rain gardens in the Red Hill Branch subwatershed. The Howard County Office of Community Sustainability partnered with University of Maryland Extension and continues to host residential rain garden and stormwater landscaping workshops.

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Stormwater solution
Permeable Pavers

Instead of a typical concrete or asphalt walkway or driveway, property owners should consider installing permeable pavers to help minimize stormwater runoff. These interlocking pavers, typically made of concrete, create voids on the corners of the pavers that allow runoff to soak into the ground.

Permeable Pavers

Grass is typically encouraged to grow in between permeable pavers, to further improve permeability using their root channels.

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Stormwater solution
Car Washing

Whenever you wash your vehicle in the driveway or street, untreated, detergent-rich water flows down the street and into the storm drain. This water may contain high amounts of chemicals, nutrients, metals, and hydrocarbons.

Instead, you should consider:

  • Washing your vehicle on grass or permeable pavement. This allows for dirty water to be soaked into and filtered by the ground.
  • Bringing your vehicle to commercial car wash facilities. These facilities often recycle their water and/or are required to treat their wash water discharge prior to releasing it to the sanitary sewer system.
Car Washing

Most stormwater impacts from car washing are from residents, businesses, and charity car wash fundraisers that discharge polluted wash water to the storm drain system.

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Stormwater solution
Proper Vehicle Maintenance

Many people perform maintenance on their vehicles in their driveways or on the street. While this activity isn't always a problem, it's important to remember that any spills of oil or other chemicals that occur will get washed into the storm drain the next time it rains.

Proper Vehicle Maintenance

To help prevent dangerous chemicals and materials from entering into the environment, you should always remember to prevent and clean up any chemical spills. You could also take your vehicle to a professional facility for service or proper disposal of old oil.

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Disposing of Pet Waste
Dangers of Improperly Handled Pet Waste

Not only are animal feces a nuisance in our environment and on the bottom of our shoes, but it also presents serious health risks. Pet waste carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can make people, especially children, sick. Pets can catch diseases from contact with infected feces of other pets. Pets and children who play in yards or parks where pets defecate are most at risk for infections from disease-causing bacteria and parasites found in pet waste. It is much easier to pick up pet waste than to care for and worry about a sick child or pet—so get scoopin'.

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Stormwater solution
Disposing of Pet Waste

Did you know that over 6,200 lbs of dog poop is generated every day in Howard County? Dog waste left on streets, pavement, yards, driveways, or along roads does not magically disappear or fertilize the ground. Animal waste that's improperly disposed of can be picked up by stormwater runoff and carried into storm drains or nearby streams, causing significant stormwater pollution and potential health risks to adults, children, and pets.

As pet owners, we all have a responsibility to properly dispose of our pet's waste. Take a plastic bag or paper cup along when walking your pet. Dispose of the waste properly in the provided public or household trash receptacles, or by flushing it down the toilet. Pick up the waste every time, everywhere, even in the snow.

Proper Yard Care
Mow Your Lawn Less Often

Try to keep your lawn at least 3" in height to minimize weed growth, reduce the need for watering, and decrease the likelihood of pests.

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Stormwater solution
Proper Yard Care
Use lawn or garden chemicals sparingly

When fertilizing or chemically treating your yard and garden:

  • Get a soil test first to know what your lawn actually needs.
  • Consider choosing natural alternatives when possible.
  • Don't overuse chemicals—read the labels carefully and measure your yard. Check the weather forecast to avoid applying them before a storm.
Stormwater solution
Only Rain Down the Drain!

Don't dump anything down storm drains. Litter is a primary cause of stormwater runoff pollution, but it's also one of the easiest to prevent.

  • Properly dispose of trash and recycling.
  • Sweep your sidewalks and driveway, and compost or dispose of the debris rather than hosing it down and washing it to the storm drain.

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Stormwater issue

Rain, snow, and other precipitation falls onto rooftops and into gutters, then flows through a building's downspouts to the ground. The heavier the precipitation, the greater volume of stormwater runoff there is.

Stormwater issue
Yard Waste

As runoff from the roof flows over a yard, it picks up fertilizers, pet waste, and sediment and carries it to the street. Surprisingly, grassy lawns do not absorb very much stormwater runoff.

Stormwater issue
Lawn Runoff

Runoff from yards flows to the street, where it picks up additional pollutants, like litter, oil from cars, and grass clippings and leaves swept to the curb, and carries them into the storm drain.

Stormwater issue

Pathways and other hard surfaces in a yard also contribute to runoff. Rain and snow cannot be absorbed into the ground but instead flow across the yard and into the street.

Stormwater issue
Puddle/Oil in Driveway

Runoff travels from a roof downspout down the driveway, picking up oil from cars, salt from de-icing, spilled fertilizers, and other pollutants, and carries them into the street.

Stormwater issue
Storm Drain

Runoff, containing debris and pollutants from the yard and street, flows unfiltered and untreated into the stormwater drainage system, where it's carried directly to local streams, rivers, and lakes—and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.

Stormwater issue
Puddle at Bottom of Driveway

Runoff from impervious surfaces, like driveways, flows quickly into the street and then to storm drains, where the polluted water flows directly to local waterways—and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.

Stormwater issue
Drainage Pipe in River

The untreated, polluted stormwater flows into local streams, rivers, and other waterways, where it:

  • Harms wildlife and plants.
  • Leads to erosion at high volumes.
  • Causes toxic algae blooms.
  • Makes unsafe conditions for swimming and fishing.
  • Can even contaminate our drinking water.
What Is Your Role?
child painting rain barrel
Residential Properties

The majority of Howard County land is privately owned, so you can make a big impact on stormwater pollution! Reduce stormwater runoff by incorporating pervious surfaces into your home and yard. Want to improve your landscape? Install a rain garden and add rain barrels to capture and reuse rainwater. Thinking about adding a patio? Use permeable pavers.

shrubs in garden

Are you a business owner? You can reduce stormwater runoff by replacing impervious surfaces like asphalt parking lots and cement sidewalks with permeable pavement, installing rain gardens or a green roof to help absorb and filter runoff, and using rain barrels.

entrance to building with plants

As a non-profit organization, you can participate in Howard County’s unique partnership program, which provides credits and grants to non-profit property owners to assist in the cost of implementing stormwater management practices.

farm with fence

If you own an agriculturally assessed parcel, you can reduce stormwater runoff and be a part of the solution by adopting a soil conservation and water quality plan or a woodland management plan.

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About Clean Water Howard
Watershed Protection Fee